Midori Seiler

J.S. Bach: Partitas for Violin

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Young violinist Midori Seiler, sure enough half Japanese and half German, offers a very strong trio of Bach solo-violin partitas here, managing to stand out from among the dozens of others on the market. In the interview-format booklet (given in German and English), Seiler lauds the "subjectivity" of Bach's solo violin music, opining that in them "one has many liberties, great scope." That may or may not be true, but Seiler certainly adopts the approach as her own, and in so doing occupies a niche that hasn't been very crowded: performance of the partitas on a Baroque violin, with period bow and gut strings, but with a Romantic freedom of interpretation. Sample the sharp contrasts in textures between movements, the slashing attacks in the faster dances, and the free treatment of tempo throughout. It's not over the edge, but definitely enough to keep the focus on the performer. Seiler's steely tone, spot-on intonationally in a situation where little vibrato is possible or desirable, is among her strengths, and in general hers is a fresh interpretation, devised, if she is to be believed, without initial reference to other recordings of the partitas. The final Chaconne of the Partita No. 2 for solo violin in D minor, BWV 1004, does not quite sustain the momentum that Seiler manages elsewhere, but there are plenty of new ideas here. Just be sure you're on board with the Romantic approach, present in full despite the Baroque instrument. A major plus is the sound environment of the new Johann Sebastian Bach Hall in Köthen, built upon the site of the stables of the former palace where Bach worked; it allows the engineers from Berlin Classics to get close to Seiler and communicate the effort of her playing and the gorgeous tone of her Guarneri violin without fetishizing instrument noise or having the arpeggios get lost in the mist. It's an ideal piece of Bach engineering, showcasing an unusual young artist.

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