J.S. Bach: Sonatas & Partitas [Ondine]

Christian Tetzlaff

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J.S. Bach: Sonatas & Partitas [Ondine] Review

by James Manheim

German violinist Christian Tetzlaff has now recorded the Bach sonatas and partitas for solo violin three times, and performed them many more. In his performances, there's a very attractive quality of wrestling with these formidable works, which come out slightly differently each time under his bow. In this beautifully recorded 2017 release on Ondine, he treats the whole set as a single work, with parallel movements among the various sonatas and partitas not made interpretively parallel, and the giant Partita No. 2 in D minor for solo violin, BWV 1004, taken as a sort of tragic climax to the set, which you might sample for its sheer bravura quality), recovering to dancelike transcendence in the final Partita No. 3 in E major. In a way, Tetzlaff's reading is at the opposite extreme to those that find deep numerological symmetries in Bach's pieces. What you'll think depends in part on how you hear the music, but note that the technical mastery Tetzlaff has deployed has only grown over time. He can execute the polyphony in these solo works, often enough at high speed, with few compromises between polyphonic lines and breaking for chords, as few others can, and whether or not you're on board with this rather neo-Romantic Bach, it demands to be heard and taken into account.

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