Bach: Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Hyperion Dyad
WORKS: Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin
PERFORMER: Elizabeth Wallfisch (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: CDD 22009
The autograph copy of these sonatas and partitas is dated 1720, the year in which Bach’s wife Maria Barbara died unexpectedly. His reaction to the loss seems to have been a desire to leave Cöthen and restart his life elsewhere. It’s possible that these extraordinary works for solo violin, epic in their scope and complexity, were written to impress potential employers. Or perhaps (and this is pure speculation) to help Bach overcome his grief, offering a challenge that required his total attention and promised the solace of beauty and order.

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Baroque specialist Elizabeth Wallfisch brings a ruminative approach to these pieces that is very engaging. The feeling is of a player absorbed in the music rather than showing off her technical prowess. However, the music could be firmly shaped at times and choice of tempo occasionally seems wayward – the Preludio to the E major Partita is taken at a manic pace! Sigiswald Kuijken’s acclaimed 1981 recording (Deutsche Harmonia Mundi) is arguably the more fluent, cohesive performance, yet Wallfisch, with her air of introspective musing, also deserves to be heard. Graham Lock