JS Bach: Sonatas for Violin and Piano

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: DVD
LABELS: Medici Arts
WORKS: Sonatas for Violin and Piano, BWV 1014-19
PERFORMER: Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin), Enrico Pace (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 205 7188 (NTSC system; dts 5.1; 16:9 picture format)

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These sonatas are an inspired concept – trio sonatas, normally for four or more instruments, compressed onto two, violin and harpsichord. While purists may carp at them played on violin (with modern set-up and bow) and piano, this splendid live performance demonstrates how effectively such instruments resolve inherent problems of balance and articulation.

Enrico Pace and Frank Peter Zimmermann play with a light touch, absorbing the spirit and texture of Bach’s intended instruments without in any way aping them, while fast movements generate exhilarating verve.

We and the audience seem like privileged eaves-droppers on intimate music-making, listening in an elegant library to performers in a world of their own. In fact, listening becomes preferable to watching, as the twitchy camera jumps from one angle to another.

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Zimmermann’s hour-long documentary intersperses heart-on-sleeve comments – about his feelings for Bach, his particularly distinguished Stradivarius and heavy-loaded schedule – with movements of the sonatas, and Paganini’s dazzling variations on ‘God save the King’. George Pratt