Bach Partitas & Sonatas
With more than 70 recordings of this ultimate challenge for solo violin available, it’s hard for another to offer something new. Cecylia Arzewski takes her place among the top ranks for her disciplined approach and almost effortless technique. On a modern violin, with tight-haired bow and high-curved bridge, not every bass note sounds in the densest four-note chords. But Arzewski maintains a faultless pulse behind a sensitive ebb and flow of rhythmic detail in the dances, while the rhapsodic slow movements that open the Sonatas wrap their florid figurations around a reassuringly measured tread.
Arzewski’s claim ‘to be as true as possible to Bach’s style’ doesn’t stretch to playing all his clearly marked repeats – a curious decision, affecting the overall length and weight of some movements. In the Allemande of Partita No. 2, so urgent is her playing that she hurries repeat bars, unnerving in a stately dance movement. But the same Partita includes her tour de force – I was enthralled by the 14-minute journey through the constantly evolving moods and textures of the mighty Chaconne. Another striking movement is the fugue of Sonata No. 3, analysed in such detail that every entry is carefully weighted.
By the final Partita, Arzewski seems completely at ease. The opening concerto-like movement (used as such by Bach in Cantata No. 29) is a thrilling perpetuum mobile, the Gavotte is light-footed and the Minuet struts. A match for most modern-instrument recordings, and admirably recorded.