Bach • Bartók

COMPOSERS: Bartok; JS Bach
LABELS: Sony
ALBUM TITLE: Bach • Bartók
WORKS: JS Bach: Solo Violin Sonata No. 2 in A minor, BWV 1003; Bartók: Violin Sonata No. 1
PERFORMER: Midori (violin), Robert McDonald (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: 82796977452

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First new recording in five years’ boasts the sleeve, but that seems a little disingenuous: the Bach was recorded in 2005, the Bartók in 1999. No matter, it arrives just in time for the LSO’s 2008 Artist Portrait devoted to Midori, and reminds us what a phenomenal technique she has – some of the voicing and chordal declamation in the Bach Fuga is staggering. But in the opening Grave she twiddles with the thermostat most disconcertingly, creating overpowering hotspots for no good reason, and rhythmically the music sometimes sprawls. The Finale is rattled off like machine‑gun fire, with under-observed echo effects, and the Andante is a mite overblown – something period specialist Rachel Podger neatly sidesteps by observing a crotchet pulse. For the Bartók, Midori is joined by the excellent Robert McDonald, but undermined by balance favouring the piano – Tetzlaff and Andsnes on Virgin are superbly matched in this respect. Ironically, given her heft in the Bach, she’s sometimes reluctant to ‘power up’ in Bartók, and while the folk-inflected Finale draws some gutsy bravado, György Pauk (on Naxos) has the idiomatic edge. In the preparation for the slow movement’s middle section, Midori is hauntingly poised and glacial; but the issue of recorded balance keeps niggling, and with better alternatives, this is perhaps a disc for the fans.