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JS Bach: Solo Violin Sonatas & Partitas (Ehnes)

James Ehnes (violin) (Onyx)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0
ONYX4228_BACH

JS Bach
Solo Violin Sonatas and Partitas
James Ehnes (violin)
Onyx ONYX4228   141:43 mins (2 discs)

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Bach’s astonishing versatility as a composer is abundantly evident throughout his career. Two periods, however, stand out: his 27 years in Leipzig during which he wrote his finest choral music, not least the St John and St Matthew Passion settings, and his six years as court musician to Prince Leopold of Cöthen, a time which was arguably the happiest and most creatively satisfying of his life. Devoting himself principally to instrumental music, among much else Bach produced the six Brandenburg Concertos as well as some of his greatest solo works for harpsichord, violin and cello.

While outwardly conventional in form, the impeccable neatness of the six Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin frames some of the most emotionally rewarding music of the early 18th century. Among the finest and most versatile of today’s violinists, James Ehnes’s approach to these demanding works matches a superb command of form with an expressive richness in interpretative detail, not least in the Second Partita’s famous concluding Chaconne. Ehnes constantly holds the listener’s attention with closely-observed detail, notably in the first Sonata’s opening Adagio and ‘Sicilliana’, balanced by infectious excitement in the Presto from the same sonata and the ebullient Prelude to the Third Partita. The more modest dance movements have both elegance and an attractive sense of ‘discovery’.

Just occasionally in the fugal movements, notably those of Sonatas Nos 1 and 3, Ehnes adopts a rather more didactic approach which can seem a little severe, but overall these excellently-recorded performances are among the finest available.

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Jan Smaczny