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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Testament - Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin
Rachel Barton Pine (violin)
rec. St. Pauls United Church of Christ, Chicago, USA, 16-18 April, 28-30 May, 29, 31 August 2015
AVIE AV2360 [60:48 + 64:45]

I must admit that when I first received this set I was somewhat worried by the title “Testament”. I thought that Rachel Barton Pine might impart to this music some affectation that this magnificent music does not need. My fears however, were unfounded.

Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied violin were composed between 1718 and 1723 establishing the technical capacity of the violin as a solo instrument. They present a great challenge for the soloist; indeed Malcolm Boyd in his book in the 'Master Musicians' series states that “Despite advances made in violin playing during the last two and a half centuries, Bach’s unaccompanied violin music is in one respect even more taxing for the modern performer than it was for the eighteenth-century one.” (p. 89). This he puts down mainly to the development of the modern bow and the higher bridge, so it is interesting to see that for this recording Rachel Barton Pine employs a baroque bow.

I must admit to having a hankering for period performances of these works and having a soft spot for the recordings by Elizabeth Wallfisch on Hyperion (CDD 22009) and Rachel Podger on Channel Classics (CSS SEL 2498). That said, I have never quite understood why Podger felt she needed to played around with the running order. Here however, Rachel Barton Pine’s combination of a 1742 Guarneri violin, which has been set up as a modern instrument with metal strings and a baroque bow, sounds really good. Her performance is excellent and has very little vibrato. This allows the music to speak for itself, and shows that she has learned from period performance style yet presents the music in a modern manner. Pine shows great insight in this music, especially in the great Ciaccona of the Partita No. 2, which Nicolas Slonimsky describes as “... a marvel of melodic, harmonic and contrapuntal organization”. It's presented here with great beauty and style. Hers is a reading which puts the music first with the result being very fine indeed. This is a feature throughout the disc with Pine's playing of the dance movements of the E Major Partita being a thing of beauty.

Rachel Barton Pine is blessed with an acoustic that is clean and bright, one which helps bring out every nuance. This is aided by wonderful recorded sound. Pine has also written the informative booklet essay that accompanies this recording, with the result being one of the finest recordings on disc.

Stuart Sillitoe


CD 1 [60:48]
Sonata No.1 in G Minor BWV 1001
1. Adagio [3:30]
2. Fuga [4:50]
3. Siciliana [2:33]
4. Presto [3:23]
Partita No.1 in B Minor BWV 1002
5. Allemanda [7:04]
6. Corrente [6:38]
7. Sarabande [3:18]
8. Tempo Di Borea [8:28]
Sonata No.2 in A Minor BWV 1003
9. Grave [3:27]
10. Fuga [6:44]
11. Andante [5:22]
12. Allegro [5:16]
CD 2 [64:45]
Partita No.2 in D Minor BWV 1004
1. Allemanda [4:01]
2. Corrente [2:43]
3. Sarabanda [3:48]
4. Giga [3:55]
5. Ciaccona [11:36]
Sonata No.3 in C BWV 1005
6. Adagio [3:59]
7. Fuga [9:04]
8. Largo [2:53]
9. Allegro Assai [4:51]
Partita No.3 in E BWV 1006
10. Preludio [3:33]
11. Loure [3:51]
12. Gavotte En Rondeau [2:42]
13. Menuet I and II [4:02]
14. Boureé [1:36]
15. Gigue [1:53]



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