JS Bach: Sonatas & Partitas for solo violin
ECM New Series 2551/52. 2CDs, 59’21+67’12
After first recording the Bach solo violin works in 1982 on a modern violin, albeit with more than a nod to the then-current notions of early performance practice, Thomas Zehetmair now returns with a Baroque instrument and two period bows, one for the Partitas, and the other for the Sonatas. It is recorded in a very generous acoustic, far removed from the possible chamber acoustic that Bach may have had in mind. But the violin speaks clearly though the background bloom, aided by Zehetmair’s careful articulation.
Zehetmair plays a c1750 Eberle violin and a c 1685 violin of South Tyrolian origin. The playing is eloquent and musical, reflecting the maturity of the performer and the consequent avoidance of unnecessary display. Virtuosity is taken as a given, rather than thrown in your face, but there is also plenty of drama, albeit never overdone.
The chaconne that concludes the D minor Partita is given a rather more reflective performance than many a younger or more demonstrative player might attempt, and it is the better for it.
The 36-page ECM booklet includes rather intense programme essays and several images of the beautifully scripted original manuscript in Bach’s own hand. As usual with ECM, it is quirky, with the tracklisting hidden away in the middle.