Biber, Baltzar, Telemann, Bach
This recital begins and ends with descending tetrachords; Biber’s “Passacaille”, which Cohën-Akenine says, “served as the benchmark before Bach composed his Chaconne”, opens proceedings in fine style, if slightly too closely miked for my tastes – it is one thing to be aware of the performer’s presence, quite another to hear his every inhalation. I do wonder, though, for whom it was a benchmark? A quick check of the RISM online catalogue reveals not a single manuscript source of the work at all, which would suggest that only those wealthy enough to own a copy of the print or fortunate enough to encounter Biber himself would have known of its existence; the suggestion that this solo repertoire was widely available, known and played is surely untenable. Be that as it may, it is clear that virtuoso players with financial means (or contacts) did produce a wealth of music for their instrument and the two pieces by Thomas Baltzar are particularly welcome. Likewise, unmannered renditions of two of Telemann’s fantasias (no. 1 in B flat major, and no. 3 in F minor) confirm his rightful place among the masters of the medium. There is no arguing, though, that the Bach D minor Partita is one of the masterpieces of Western music, and Cohën-Akenine shifts up a gear for the immense challenges. It is particularly impressive that, in spite of all the extraneous noises, the bow strokes all come off without harshness, and the open strings ring pure throughout. I’m not going to say that I stopped hearing the breathing, but the musician’s communion with Bach was so intense that everything else was transcended. Next time, though, please do move the mikes!