Bach in Black
JS Bach: Violin Concerto in D minor (arr. of BWV 1052); Violin Concerto in G minor (arr. of BWV 1056 ); Violin Concerto No. 1 in A minor, BWV 1041; St Matthew Passion – Erbarme dich; St John Passion – Es ist vollbracht; Mass in B minor – Agnus Dei
La Voce Strumentale/Dmitry Sinkovsky (violin, countertenor)
Naïve OP 30567
Three minor-key violin concertos interspersed with three exquisite arias; it’s an alluring crowd-pleaser. Director, violinist, countertenor – multi-talented showman Dmitry Sinkovsky reminds us of the flexibility of 18th-century musicians – but a recording which at first glance seems all about Bach is actually more about Sinkovsky.
It’s no mere stunt; certainly these are intensely personal interpretations, and Sinkovsky wears his heart on his sleeve. Virtuosic abandon on his 1675 Ruggieri violin is countered by an ability to make the instrument sing – with techniques not restricted to the period. Prominent, bold percussive basslines in the D minor Concerto, BWV 1052 (which appear to gain significant post- production resonance) add to the full-blooded energy, evident in all three theatrical concertos; but for all the rhetorical placement of chords, pauses and agogic accents, the direction of lines regularly suffers. In the G minor Concerto, BWV 1056 (transcribed from the F minor key of the original work for harpsichord, strings and continuo) Sinkovsky finds increased whimsy in both soloistic phrasing and ensemble pizzicato – and throughout the disc his ornamentation impresses.
If, by the time you reach the A minor Concerto, BWV 1041 (the one work on this album Bach originally intended for a violin soloist), you are a convert to the film-style bass-heavy sound- world, there’s much to enjoy. The Moscow-based ensemble La Voce Strumentale offers a texturally rich reading, with increased dynamics – and the most robust lute stop I’ve heard in a while.
Vocally, Sinkovsky has an attractive, if at times one- dimensional instrument – especially in ‘Erbame dich’, where sadly, rather than achieving synergy of artistic obbligato lines, spontaneity is stymied by multitracking his voice and violin. The emotive text is captured in a dramatic performance of ‘Es ist Vollbracht’, but his Agnus Dei is an abrupt end to the programme.
Read more reviews of the latest JS Bach recordings