JS Bach's Solo Violin Sonatas & Partitas performed by Rachel Barton Pine

Album title:
JS Bach
JS Bach
Solo violin sonatas & partitas
Rachel Barton Pine (violin)
Catalogue Number:
AV 2360
BBC Music Magazine

With 108 recordings already available, it takes an inventive mind to find anything new in this pinnacle of the violin repertoire. Rachel Barton Pine has waited until her early 40s, having had a distinguished career in the Classical and Romantic concerto repertoire but also jazz and heavy-metal music. To her uninhibited and extrovert vitality, she also adds a scholarly approach, sometimes to unexpected detail. She suggests, for example, that redundant two-bar tags ending Allemandes might recall dancers pausing to bow to each other.

Pine plays on her modernised Guaneri violin, using a Baroque bow which allows an off-the-string lightness in fast movements, and more readily sustained multiple-stopped chords. These are wonderfully managed, the bass often weighted to support the harmony above, mid-texture harmony notes lighter than sustained melody: the G minor fugue is a striking example. In the following Siciliano Pine has analysed the dialogue most effectively, one lone violin projecting two distinct musical thoughts, melody and intervening sighing thirds and sixths. The witty final Presto, Bach teasing the ear with ambiguous rhythms, sparkles with energy. Her grasp of the largest structure, the 11-and-a-half minute Ciaccona of Partita No. 2, is impressive – strongly directional and exhibiting a wide emotional range.

The recording doesn’t perhaps capitalise on the acoustic of St Paul’s Church in Chicago – the very opening sounds a touch hard and boxy. But this is a recording that stands out, amid a wealth of alternatives, as truly distinctive.

George Pratt

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