Hidden Acoustics

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

LABELS: Nimbus
WORKS: JS Bach: Solo Violin Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004; Bartók: Solo Violin Sonata
PERFORMER: Ruth Palmer (violin)


Ruth Palmer’s Shostakovich debut CD was warmly received, and for her second she’s chosen two works with absolutely nowhere to hide. Luckily, she doesn’t need to: from the very start of the Bartók there’s complete technical confidence, a wide tonal range and a sure sense of the music’s dramatic direction. In the first movement chaconne, she finds a continuity of line through all the tricky multiple stops, and she charts a clear course through the ensuing fugue.

Here, the acoustic of the Temple Church in London seems over-generous, but it gives a sensual warmth to the long-spun melody of the third movement, where Palmer’s flexible rubato and expressive dynamics give the music free rein. In the finale, she restores the quarter-tones which Yehudi Menuhin, the work’s dedicatee, removed, but doesn’t quite find his tonal warmth in the more ‘Hungarian’ passages.


The Bach is given a Romantic reading, more along the lines of older interpreters like Sándor Végh than the period-influenced style of, say, Julia Fischer (on PentaTone). In the faster movements Palmer finds a dancing lilt, and only in the great concluding Chaconne did I find her full-on intensity verging on the relentless at times – again the acoustic and recording tend to magnify what’s already a big sound. But there are some more intimate moments, and the pacing is impeccable, bringing the CD full circle: going back to the first track shows exactly where Bartók found his starting point. Martin Cotton