Bach: TESTAMENT – Complete sonatas and partitas for solo violin

Rachel Barton-Pine
125:33 (2 CDs in a jewel case)
Avie SV2360

In her accompanying essay, Barton-Pine relates how she has played Bach all her life and it shows! She is a technical giant of the instrument – and she’s not afraid to ornament music that terrifies many a lesser mortal… If there is an area in which I feel she particularly excels, it is in the monumental fugues from the three sonatas; no matter how long they go on, or how complex the texture becomes (or, conversely, how sparse!) she always finds a way to keep the music interesting, without ever sounding contrived. I was genuinely moved by her reading of the Largo after the C major fugue, in which every note was caressed with a warmth that I don’t think I had heard anywhere before. At times it did feature her “signature special effect”, a barely audible yet arresting pianissimo. The moto perpetuo-style Allegro assai that follows flew off like a whirling dervish… a breathtaking demonstration of faultless – not to say truly awesome – technique both in the left hand and in the right arm. Although the recording was made in a huge space, and there is reverb, the sound is remarkably focussed, which makes the lack of any ambient noise all the more remarkable. The lack of any audible effort is also astonishing – I am surely not the only fiddler who will be humbled by these wonderful recordings.

Brian Clark