Isabelle Faust

Bach: Sonatas & Partitas, BWV 1004-1006

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"Clapton is God!" was the well-known graffiti scrawled across 20th century London, praising the Englishman's fiery guitar playing. Based on Isabelle Faust's blazing accounts of Bach's sonatas and partitas on this 2010 Harmonia Mundi disc, one might expect to see the graffiti "Faust is God!" scrawled across 21st century Paris. Rather than play all six of these canonical works of the solo violin literature, Faust has chosen the D minor and E major partitas and placed the C major Sonata between them. All three are tremendously difficult both technically and expressively, but starting with the D minor Partita with its celebrated Chaconne was particularly audacious. Faust rises to the challenge with an utterly devastating account of the work. Playing with only a dab of vibrato but a boatload of virtuosity, she overcomes every technical hurdle in this surpassingly difficult work. She saves the best for last, and her Chaconne is stunningly powerful, as well as amazingly nuanced and profoundly moving. Her other two performances are equally impressive, especially the opening Adagio and Fugue from the C major Sonata, which builds from a whisper to a shattering contrapuntal climax. There have been other great recordings of these works, but Faust's surely belongs among the best. Harmonia Mundi's sound is close but not overly intimate.

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