JS Bach: Solo Violin Sonatas & Partitas

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: JS Bach
LABELS: Onyx
WORKS: Solo Violin Sonatas & Partitas
PERFORMER: Viktoria Mullova (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: Onyx 4040

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Bach’s unaccompanied violin music offers many fiendish challenges in terms of accurately playing the notated music, let alone making expressive sense of it. In this recording Viktoria Mullova presents virtually flawless playing but, of greater importance, she sustains an impeccably punctuated, modulated and compelling dialogue through Bach’s counterpoint with seemingly effortless intimacy and charm.

She appears to have wholeheartedly embraced the Baroque period instrument ethos: with her mid-18th century Guadagnini violin, its gut strings and Baroque pitch at A=415, Mullova’s performance has won me over more or less from start to finish. 

Comparably engaging is Julia Fischer’s account in her splendid Pentatone recording, yet her playing is generally more measured and she allows herself more space within each movement. Mullova, by contrast, is almost invariably brisker, nowhere more so than in the great D minor Chaconne of the Second Partita and the supremely challenging C major Fuga of the Third Sonata. These movements are brilliantly illuminated by Mullova’s dazzling virtuosity and her wonderfully light bowing which enables her to inflect and punctuate with delicacy.

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However I find Mullova’s account of the Fuga of the G minor Sonata a little studied and the Andante of the A minor Sonata, which she dedicates to her daughter, serene but rather cool. Altogether, though, this is playing which is captivating for its stylishness, avoidance of overstatement, geniality and modesty. Nicholas Anderson