Suites for Solo Violin
Plamena Nikitassova (violin)
Ricercar RIC 412 56.59 mins
Johann Paul von Westhoff is remembered for his publication in 1696 of six partitas, or suites, for unaccompanied violin. He was a violinist at the Weimar court when Bach was first appointed there in 1703, so it is unlikely that the younger composer would not have seen and perhaps played some of Westhoff’s pioneering music.
Westhoff’s Suites consist of the four principal components of the time – an allemande, a courante, a sarabande, a gigue – and, in a single instance, an additional prelude. Since the concluding gigue is missing from the Sixth Suite of the surviving copy of the 1696 publication, an alternative suite printed in 1683 in the Mercure galant, the leading French periodical, has been substituted. In these historically fascinating and musically pleasing dances, Westhoff demonstrates his skill in treating the violin not merely as a melodic instrument but also as one capable of chordal expression. While neither technically nor musically does the material approach Bach’s unaccompanied violin masterpieces, it is not lacking in fresh ideas and effects, such as a bold use of chromaticism in the Gigue of the A minor Suite.
Plamena Nikitassova is a sympathetic interpreter well versed in the particular demands of this repertoire and the effective means of enlivening it. Her intonation is impeccable and her ability to sustain our interest in the many subtleties of the music is rewarding. Recorded sound is ideal and the booklet essay provides an interesting background to Westhoff’s life. Nicholas Anderson