Friday, August 31, 2012

In review--Polyphonic Bach


Isabelle Faust
J.S. Bach Sonatas & Partitas
Harmonia Mundi

Isabelle Faust’s new recording of J.S. Bach’s Partitas & Sonatas reveals a different side of Bach’s repertoire for a solo instrument.  Not the first time I have heard these sonatas and partitas performed on a violin, this time I hear the lush polyphony sung by this single instrument.  As one passage lingers in the air resonating, a new one superimposes over it creating a rich sonic environment.  At times, it feels like Faust’s instrument has split into two musical personalities conversing with each other.  Listening to this recording on headphones offers a musical retreat that alternates between relaxing the mind and invigorating the body.

Faust is easily one of the best violinists working today interpreting German and Austrian composers.  The violinist’s sensitivity melded with her technical brilliance wrings emotions out of every note she plays.  From slow melancholic suites to quick tempos (Sonata I Presto, Partita I Double), that fly off the strings of the violin, I feel captivated by Faust’s renderings of, I’m told, the most challenging violin music.  After all, mastering Bach’s musical architecture and virtuosic technique while bringing these sounds to modern ears, seems like an extraordinary task.  On J. S. Bach Sonatas & Partitas, we witness Sonata I BVW 1001, Partita I BWV 1002 and Sonata II BWV 1003 come to life in Kodachrome moments with dense musical tones highlighted by playfulness such as on Allemanda of the Partita. 

This is one of those recordings where investing 60 minutes of a listener’s time pays off in inspiration, clear headedness, and feeling at-one with the world.  I highly recommend Isabelle Faust’s J.S. Bach Sonatas & Partitas and I believe that it teaches the art of listening intensely to music.  I have already felt the rewards of listening to Faust’s recording several times.

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