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JS Bach: Solo Violin Sonatas & Partitas, Vol 1 (FP Zimmermann)

Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin) (BIS)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

JS Bach
Solo Violin Sonatas & Partitas, Vol. 1: Sonata No. 2; Partitas Nos 2 & 3
Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin)
BIS BIS-2577 (CD/SACD)   67:36 mins

A steady tread of fine performances of Bach’s solo violin Sonatas and Partitas during the last four years is testimony both to the allure and the technical brilliance of these remarkable works. The late 17th and 18th centuries are replete with music – from Biber to Locatelli – that tests the limits of solo violin virtuosity, and yet Bach’s contribution remains the touchstone for modern soloists. While certainly a yardstick by which to measure any aspiring virtuoso, for the listener they offer myriad rewards from contrapuntal expertise in the fugues to sheer uninhibited exuberance in the dances alongside dizzying exhilaration in the E major Partita’s Prelude.

If not the last word, Zimmermann’s interpretations are the most impressive I have heard in recent years. The tone is magnificently focused, occasionally throaty but without excessive vibrato. His structural approach avoids being didactic but instead allows each movement to ‘react’ to its predecessor in a satisfying realisation of the whole. In the A minor Sonata, for example, the initial Grave has a reflective, soulful quality while the following Fuga balances this with both rigour and playfulness. In all cases the dance movements manage to be joyous as well as thoughtful, and the celebrated concluding Chaconne of the D minor Partita is one of the most compelling I have encountered, constantly illuminating the abundant range of textures Bach weaves from the opening melody. The two acoustics used for the recordings are resonant, but throughout enhance the superb clarity of the playing.

Jan Smaczny

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