One of the most grown-up review sites around

50,000 reviews
and more.. and still writing ...

Search MusicWeb Here



International mailing

  Founder: Len Mullenger             Senior Editor: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider


A most rewarding CD
Renate Eggebrecht violin

Leticia Gómez-Tagle
Chopin, Liszt, Scarlatti

Acte Prealable returns
with New Releases

Anderson Choral music

colourful and intriguing

Pekarsky Percussion Ensemble

one of Berlioz greatest works

Rebecca Clarke Frank Bridge
High-octane performances

An attractive Debussy package

immaculate Baiba Skride

eloquent Cello Concerto

tension-filled work

well crafted and intense

another entertaining volume

reeking of cordite

Pappano with a strong cast

imaginatively constructed quartets

the air from another planet

vibrantly sung

NOT a budget performance

very attractive and interesting

finesse and stylistic assurance

Support us financially by purchasing this from

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Sonatas & Partitas for Solo Violin, BWV 1001-1006
Sonata No. 1 in G minor [17:29]
Partita No. 1 in B minor [30:44]
Sonata No. 2 in A minor [25:33]
Partita No. 2 in D minor [33:29]
Sonata No. 3 in C major [24:16]
Partita No. 3 in E major [18:41]
James Ehnes (violin)
rec. November 1999 & June 2000, St Augustine’s Church, Quebec
ANALEKTA AN28772-3 [73:52 + 76:25]

After the re-release of his disc of the Mozart concertos, this is the second James Ehnes disc I’ve heard in the last few months that has been reincarnated from its previous outing. Originally recorded seventeen years ago, Ehnes’s solo Bach seems rather to have been forgotten, and his modern style of playing pays little heed to recent Baroque orthodoxy, but it deserves to be remembered as a lovely thing in and of itself, and I found it enormously enjoyable.

Ehnes plays Bach on a modern violin and in a modern style, but that didn’t bother me in the slightest. There is a smoothness and predominantly lyrical tone to his performances that is, for me, very compelling and very convincing. More importantly, Ehnes is simply being himself. My experience of him in performance is that he is a uniquely responsive artist and has a great empathy for the music he plays. It’s fitting, then, that you know from the opening bars of this disc that this music is being played by a poet. He shows exceptional sensitivity of approach, and has a flexible approach to matters of tempo so that the bar lines dissolve and often, what should be a dance, turns instead into a soulful arioso. Bach’s fugues, miracles of virtuosity all, hold no terrors for him, and the one in the first sonata sounds positively airborne. Even the scurrying Presto that concludes it retains its lyricism.

There is great grace in the Allemanda that opens the first partita, even though it's a tiny tad stilted in places. He gives a very logical first Double & Corrente, though he here is rather clinical, almost formulaic. Things only take off at the second Double, but even that involves a bit of note-spinning.

However, the second sonata opens with beautiful keening tone (Grave, indeed!), then a jaunty, dance-like fugue. The subsequent Andante is beautifully played, and there is a cascading feel to the Allegro, as the notes tumble gracefully over one another. Conversely, an air of seriousness settles over the second partita right from the start, almost as though Ehnes is a little bit intimidated by it. This culminates in a performance of the great Ciaccona that is both emotionally moving and impressively architectural. Ehnes shapes it with great seriousness and knowledge of where it is all going. Every grace note and ornamentation is used as part of the architecture, never for mere decoration, and there is an unusual song like strain at the instrument's top, the major key episodes feeling like a repose.

Coming after that, the third sonata feels consciously gentle and reflective. The opening rocks beautifully, then runs straight into the second movement like a seamless entity. The third movement is restrained and the finale is spiralling, exciting, uplifting. Then the third partita feels like the most actively dance-like of them all, with a joyous opening, buoyant faster movements, and a real swing of joy throughout.

As I said, those who seek Baroque practice should look elsewhere, and you’ll find ample reward from the like of Rachel Podger or Isabelle Faust, but if you want to hear an unashamedly late-twentieth-century approach done very well indeed, then Ehnes is your man. He shows that modern Bach still reaps rewards and that the “authentic” brigade doesn’t necessarily have the whole market to itself.

Simon Thompson



We are currently offering in excess of 50,400 reviews

Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off
15CDs £83 incl. postage

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger