WORKS: Partita for Solo Violin in B minor, BWV 1002; Partita for Solo Violin in D minor, BWV 1004; Partita for Solo Violin in E, BWV 1006
PERFORMER: Viktoria Mullova (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: 434 075-2 DDD
‘One of the greatest violinists told me once that he had seen nothing more perfect for anyone learning to be a violinist and could suggest nothing better to anyone eager to learn.’ So CPE Bach wrote of his father’s six Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied violin – works which were all but forgotten until Joseph Joachim took them up in the 19th century. Thereafter, two movements in particular (the monumental Chaconne which ends the Second Partita, and the E major Prelude which begins the Third) became favourite showpieces. Today, all six works are rightly regarded as the pinnacle of the solo violin repertoire.
Versions currently available range from classic recordings by Joachim himself (1903), Busch, Kreisler and Heifetz, to over a dozen more recent interpretations. Viktoria Mullova eschews the more dramatic approach of some of these in favour of a restrained, introspective account. Her playing is sweet-toned and elegant – particularly well suited to the ‘galanterie’ of the Third Partita, though her technical control is superb throughout. At times, though, the lines implied in Bach’s inherently contrapuntal writing are not sufficiently differentiated, and her interpretation generally lacks that extra ounce of intensity. The recently reissued set by Arthur Grumiaux remains hard to beat. Kate Bolton