JS Bach: Solo Violin Sonatas and Partitas

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COMPOSERS: JS Bach; Pauset
LABELS: Ambroisie
WORKS: JS Bach: Solo Violin Sonatas and Partitas; Pauset: Kontrapartita
PERFORMER: David Grimal (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: AM 181

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No one could accuse David Grimal of approaching Bach’s solo violin Everest without an exemplary ‘duty of care’. As a student he played the entire set at a sitting to an evidently patient teacher before accepting comments.

A few years later he made a live recording, and has now set down the fruits of some far-reaching considerations, elaborated in some detail in the liner notes. He’s also persuaded composer Brice Pauset to write a Kontrapartita whose three movements are interleaved to thought-provoking preludial effect.

Pauset describes his music as ‘a humane revisiting of Bach’s world’ and, in the Loure for example, a whole spectrum of violin possibilities inform an eerie disembodied deconstruction. Set alongside the Bach, Kontrapartita acts as an ear-opening palate-cleanser, and Grimal certainly makes a powerful case for it. When it comes to the Bach, though, the results are more mixed.

He’s opted for his own Strad complete with modern metal strings and an early 19th-century bow, but he’s listened to period practitioners too and, like Julia Fischer or Christian Tetzlaff (both of whom find more in the music), is content to forge his own path.

His often forthright tone could easily have accommodated more supple gradations, and while fast movements are purposeful – so long as he resists the temptation to cling to a note too long for expressive punctuation – the slower music can sound a touch gritty and determined.

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Rachel Podger – instinctive and spontaneous, yet informed by a penetrating stylistic savoir faire – remains an obvious first choice; the addition of Pauset’s Kontrapartita, nonetheless, lends ‘added value’ in a field crowded with front-runners. Paul Riley