Richard Tognetti

Bach: Sonatas & Partitas for Solo Violin

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Modern instrument and bow or period? Steel strings or gut? Period pitch or modern? These questions and likely hundreds more are all violinists deciding to record Bach's sonatas and partitas for solo violin need to answer. In the case of this album by Australian violinist Richard Tognetti, most decisions lean toward period performance practice, including using a Baroque bow and gut strings tuned to a' = 415. Of course, the instrument that's played and how it's tuned has less to do with the quality of a performance than might be hoped, especially by Tognetti. Despite gut strings being tuned a full 25 cents lower than the "modern" pitch of a' = 440, the sound of Tognetti's Guadagnini violin is disturbingly bright, and the timbre between the different strings is markedly uneven. Although Tognetti's intonation and overall technique are quite precise, his musical decisions are not as uniformly unassailable. Many of the "dance" movements are given a distinctly singsongy feeling, with every beat given equal importance and the longer musical line made difficult to detect. Tognetti frequently plays extended cross-string passages, as often heard in the D minor Chaconne, extremely short and almost spiccato. Changes in dynamics are unorthodoxly abrupt and jarring. Listeners interested in a purely technical performance of the sonatas and partitas will likely still find this contribution satisfactory, but those seeking a more musical, sensitive interpretation may not be as intrigued.

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