Kim Kashkashian

J.S. Bach: Six Suites for Viola Solo

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The American violist Kim Kashkashian (if your autocomplete gives you her name, you may be a viola lover) has had a long association with the ECM label, often playing mainstream or contemporary repertory. But she has been playing Bach's Six Suites for solo cello on the viola for many years since coming on the scene in the late 1970s, and the cycle recorded here has the flavor of something deeply considered over many years. Transferring the music to the viola might have sounded a little odd to Bach, but it wouldn't have been beyond the boundaries of his universe, and in fact the human-range tone of the viola adds an indefinable fascination. But it's Kashkashian's daring readings that really compel attention. If you're a historical-performance absolutist you might give Kashkashian a miss, for some of her choices here go in the opposite direction from such influences. Consider the way she plays double- and triple-stopped chords: she does not glide through them as a historically oriented player might, but rather spreads them out and uses them to introduce a moment of rhythmic tension. In general, Kashkashian plays the suites with a good deal of rhythmic freedom. The dance pulse is there, but it's displaced elegantly or playfully. Sample the famous double Gavotte from the Suite No. 6 to find out how Kashkashian treats the lines and in general brings entirely new outlooks to some very familiar music. Some Bach solo recordings are mystical, some are virtuosic, some are gallant: remarkably, Kashkashian is all three.

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