Bach2 the Future

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Biber,Crosse,Frances-Hoad,Hellawell,JS Bach,Scott,Ysaye
LABELS: Champs Hill Records
ALBUM TITLE: Bach2 the Future
WORKS: Works by JS Bach, Frances-Hoad, Ysaÿe, Crosse, Biber, Hellawell and Scott
PERFORMER: Fenella Humphreys (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: CHRCD 102

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A tricksy title, but this is an interesting, diverse programme. It includes three of the six pieces that Fenella Humphreys has commissioned to accompany the Bach solo sonatas and partitas. Bach himself comes first with the Partita No. 3 in E and, although I was not initially convinced by the resonant acoustic, it certainly enhances Humphreys’s rich and varied tone. She shapes the music with skill, and sometimes with humour: I especially enjoyed the almost throwaway ending to the Gavotte en Rondeau, and there is always space for the music in the rhythmic timing and lift to the phrasing.

Frances-Hoad’s Suite No. 1 inhabits a more overtly emotional world, where melodies are more angular and harmonies less predictable. Humphreys variously brings passion and restraint to the different moods here, and also in Ysaÿe’s Sonata No. 2, shot through with the Dies Irae, where her double-stops are impeccable, and there is complete confidence in the rapid changes of character.

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In Crosse’s Orkney Dreaming, the odd fragment of Bach surfaces, only to go in unexpected directions, evoking birdsong, the Orcadian landscape or Scottish dancing. Hellawell’s title, Balcony Scenes, refers to the two levels or layers in the writing, and the internal dialogue in the central movements is a tour de force for Humphreys, with interjections in pizzicato, tremolo or harmonics effortlessly integrated into the texture. A more restrained use of vibrato characterises the Biber Passacaglia from the Rosenkranz Sonata, where there is a questing flexibility to the line, and elegant ornaments; and the jeu d’esprit of Cyril Scott’s Bumblebees is a nicely understated, virtuoso ending to an enjoyable and accomplished CD. Martin Cotton