Daniel Pioro

J.S. Bach: Partita No. 2 in D minor

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This release marks a new kind of rock-to-classical crossover: it is produced by Radiohead guitarist and keyboardist Jonny Greenwood and marks the debut release on his Octatonic label. It's interesting in a number of ways. First of all, although there is a limited-edition LP, it is essentially an online-only release. It reached British classical charts in late 2019 and is among few online releases to do so. Second, the album contains only a single work, the Bach Partita No. 2 for solo violin, BWV 1004, clocking in at well under 30 minutes. This idea is worth exploring, for the online distribution of music has moved the emphasis somewhat toward the single work or the single popular song, although the concept of the album (originally signifying a physical album of 78 rpm records) remains important. Finally, Greenwood serves not only as an entrepreneur but also as a producer, and he deserves credit for matching the acoustic design to the online medium. High-fidelity downloads are available, but Greenwood, realizing that the majority of the album's listeners will not be hearing those, forges a brilliant, close-up sound that will cut through the ambient noise of headphones. No recording location is specified, but it was presumably a studio that he thought about how to exploit effectively. This leaves us with the performance of violinist Daniel Pioro, extravagantly praised by Greenwood in the publicity surrounding the album. It's basically an old-school Romantic performance of the Partita No. 2, pushing the tempo a good deal and amping up the emotional level in the big Chaconne at the end. Pioro has no technical issues and controls the big arc of this movement well, but his flexible tempos in the dance movements may be a bit distracting. For the present, it suffices to note that there will likely be more releases of this type, not fewer as the years go by, and it may be interesting to experience the ground floor.

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