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Bach’s Long Shadow

Francisco Fullana, Stella Chen (violin) (Orchid Classics)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

Bach’s Long Shadow
JS Bach: Solo Violin Partita No. 3,
BWV 1006; Ysaÿe: Solo Violin Sonata in A minor etc; plus works by Albéniz, Kreisler & Tárrega
Francisco Fullana, Stella Chen (violin)
Orchid Classics ORC 100165   57:38 mins


Verdi once observed that all post-Baroque composers were to some extent ‘sons of Bach’. Solo violin music since Bach almost invariably has a tendency to pay homage to his Sonatas and Partitas. As a creative springboard for the remainder of this recital, Francisco Fullana includes the E major Partita, employing gut strings, Baroque bow and authentic ornamentation. In so doing, he finds a compelling middle-way between Romantic and period-instrument rhetoric, inflecting phrases with a smiling affection that feels entirely natural.

It is a particularly apt choice as the second of Ysaÿe’s six solo sonatas opens with a movement entitled ‘Obsession’, which offsets fragments from the Partita’s ‘Preludio’ with outbursts of manic despair, underpinned by haunting references to the Dies Irae (‘Day of Wrath’) chant. Fullana captures the music’s restless probings with nerve-shredding intensity, entering fully into its half-crazed world of semantic obfuscation and restlessness.

Having Kreisler’s Recitativo and Scherzo here is especially poignant as it was dedicated to Ysaÿe, and Fullana currently plays the first of Kreisler’s Guarneri violins, the 1735 ‘Mary Portman’. Here, Fullana manages to combine Itzhak Perlman’s warmth with the aristocratic poise of Henryk Szeryng, qualities that also shine out in the Hispanic allure of Albéniz’s Asturias, and Tárrega’s Recuerdos de la Alhambra. Rounding out this fine recital is an arresting performance of the opening movement of Ysaÿe’s Sonata for Two Violins, with winner of the 2019 Queen Elisabeth Competition, Stella Chen.


Julian Haylock