Bach: Violin Sonatas, BWV 1014, 1015, 1016, 1017

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Meridian
WORKS: Violin Sonatas, BWV 1014, 1015, 1016, 1017
PERFORMER: Ruth Waterman (violin)Morey Ritt (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDE 84354
Violinist Ruth Waterman has a particular affinity with Bach’s sublime sonatas for violin and obbligato keyboard: she has given talks and written about them, but above all communicates her obvious insight through these eloquent accounts. She and pianist Morey Ritt interact as old friends on familiar ground. The final Allegro of the E major Sonata may be rather gabbled, and, by contrast, the Adagio of the C minor is ponderously slow; but these are small quibbles about such deeply affectionate and affecting performances.

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For anyone who balks at Bach on the piano, two other recent versions of these sonatas use harpsichord. Maggie Cole uses a gorgeous instrument by Andrew Garlick, which she plays with refined intelligence. She and Catherine Mackintosh offer the complete works for violin and keyboard, with cellist Jennifer Ward Clarke joining themin the two continuo sonatas. All are sensitive interpreters, thoroughly conversant with Baroque style, and while their period instruments create a finely balanced ensemble, they do present occasional problems with intonation. There is some loss of detail, too, as the spacious acoustic of Forde Abbey and slightly distant perspective on the violin make for a rather unfocused recording.

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The choice of harpsichord would seem to be something of a token nod at historical performance for Dmitry Sitkovetsky, whose full-blooded tone and extrovert interpretations are more suited to the concert hall than the chamber. But this is exceptionally fine playing and, though large-scale, it is not marred by Romantic self-indulgence. Sitkovetsky is ably partnered by Robert Hill, who gives crisp and sparkling accounts, although the bright, metallic-sounding harpsichord will be too abrasive for many tastes.