COMPOSERS: JS Bach
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach
WORKS: Sonatas & Partitas for Solo Violin, BWV 1001-1006
PERFORMER: Christian Tetzlaff (violin)
CATALOGUE NO: CD 98.250
From Mozart to MacRea, Christian Tetzlaff has established himself on disc as an artist of persuasive versatility. At some point, though, every great violinist must square up to the Bach Solo Sonatas and Partitas. Tetzlaff has finally bitten the bullet – magnificently.
Among other modern instrumental versions Julia Fischer’s 2004 recording, in which she embraced a mainstream approach, sets much store in maintaining an even beauty of tone. Tetzlaff is edgier. He takes more risks, probes deeper, shows greater stylistic awareness and is refreshingly rooted in the rhetoric of the dance movements which lend a French accent to the Partitas (Italy powering the Sonatas).
He perceives the cycle as a ‘journey from darkness to light’ – at its pivot what he describes as ‘the musical no man’s land’ of the C major Sonata’s first movement: an Adagio suffused with the gravitas of the D minor Ciaccona out of which emerges ‘the jubilant expression of the C major Fugue’. It’s an interesting idea, given Helga Thoene’s speculations that the Ciaccona enshrines references to the death of Bach’s first wife. Seen thus, Rachel Podger’s ‘pivot’ (played on period instrument) recalls the Brahms of Op. 117 No. 1: the ‘Lullaby of all my griefs’. Tetzlaff is less tender perhaps, but his fugue has immense grandeur and authority – humility, too, at the moment the subject finds its ‘al riverso’ reverse gear. Podger, lighter on her feet and achingly expressive without overloading the music, shows that in the set as a whole ‘less is more’. Pressing more gently she discloses a truer vivacity, even if Tetzlaff sometimes unleashes the greater visceral thrill. Paul Riley