J S Bach: Solo Sonatas and Partitas

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LABELS: Canary Classics
WORKS: Solo Sonatas and Partitas
PERFORMER: Gil Shaham (violin)


Though we do not know for whom Bach’s Partitas and Sonatas for solo violin without continuo were written, we can be sure that they would have attracted attention. Here are pieces whose technical variety and expressive dimensions significantly raised the bar above any similarly scored music previously written; and in these respects they remain unsurpassed.

Gil Shaham enters a field in which there’s a profusion of competitors. Having experimented in these sessions with a modern bow and set-up, he abandoned them in favour of a Baroque style bow, bridge and gut strings. But he has kept to modern concert pitch. Shaham’s playing sparkles with vitality and astonishes with its technical brilliance. He has an infectiously light-footed approach to the many dance-based movements, such as the Allemanda and Corrente of the D minor Partita. Generally he favours faster tempos than most rivals I can recall; his delivery of the great D minor Chaconne is perhaps the briskest that I have ever known.

Occasionally, I wished that he would linger more on slower movements – such as the Andante of the A minor Sonata – but notwithstanding small reservations, this is a rewarding achievement of which the C major Sonata is its dazzling high point. Shaham’s application of vibrato is carefully controlled and thoughtfully applied, and his tone, though bright, is warm and communicative. Bach’s varied fugal movements are clearly articulated and lightly bowed and his timeless poetry lovingly realised.


Nicholas Anderson