Markku Luolajan-Mikkola has a reputation for excellence and already has two Gramophone Awards. With a fan base to match, Luolajan-Mikkola is at the top of his game. In Luolajan-Mikkola’s Linn debut, he tackles the pinnacle of Bach’s productions for violinists: the Partitas and Sonatas. Luolajan-Mikkola transcribed these works for cello. His goal with this recording has been to encapsulate expression and emotion according to the character of each movement. A historically informed musician, he performs on baroque cello.
This two-CD set is actually part of an ambitious undertaking: ESS.A.Y Recordings recorded these sonatas in two different versions, this one featuring Ms. Tenenbaum on a modern violin and accompanied by a modern piano played by Richard Kapp; the other recording (reviewed below) features Ms. Tenenbaum playing an older violin and accompanied by a harpsichord played by Gerald Ranck.
No doubt many of you are wondering whether I should be recording Bach’s complete sonatas and partitas at the age of only 21. Perhaps I should have waited a bit longer? Well, patience has seldom been my strong point, and after all I have already waited a number of years for an opportunity to record these works. During the first six years of study with my teacher Ana Chumachenco, I studied the sonatas and partitas thoroughly, and first performed both cycles in their entirety in the Bach year 2000, during the course of two evenings at the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival.
The pellucid simplicity of Bruno Canino's pianoplaying is the perfect partner for the fine silver of Viktoria Mullova's violin playing. Here it is at its most refined, even its most austere. The Adagio of the B minor Sonata contains absolutely nothing extraneous to a perception of the melody's own contours: no gloss of dynamic or movement, just a sense of totally secure accomplishment, sophisticated timbre and phrasing.
John Holloway and Davitt Moroney have set up a musically rewarding partnership in these brilliantly inventive works, furthermore adding to their programme the two lovely sonatas for violin and continuo long attributed to Bach, and justly so. In both of them they are joined by Susan Sheppard (continuo cello). For these sonatas Moroney has preferred a chamber organ to a harpsichord.
The late Nathan Milstein’s 1975 stereo remake (DG mid-price) was his own preferred version of these pillars of the violin repertoire with which he had been so associated since his youth in Odessa. But his (broadly faster) mid-Fifties New York account, now remastered and restored by EMI, was a famous yardstick of its time – a grandly phrased, aristocratically structured, Romantically resonant statement to treasure beside Menuhin and Heifetz. These are epic virtuoso performances justifying Milstein’s view that with this music the performer could ‘bask in the most glamorous light’. Stylistically, purists will object to their expressive liberty and gesture. But few will be able to resist their artistry or intensity of delivery.