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.
Fifteen years after his recording of Bach’s three Sonatas for viola da gamba and harpsichord (on hm, with Rinaldo Alessandrini), Paolo Pandolfo returns to this repertoire a new approach: the fruit of active and concentrated years of consideration, study and research into the inherent possibilities of his instrument. Given the basic differing natures of these two instruments, the performance of these works very often turns – in Pandolfo’s words – into a “musical argument”, rather than what is demanded by the music’s essential nature: a “musical conversation” in which the score achieves “transparency and eloquence”.
Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch is an unusually versatile violinist, predominantly known for her performance of period music but also excelling in many other styles and genres. Her position as concertmaster in the orchestra of Philippe Herreweghe is testament to her skill as an early music performer.
Isabelle Faust has gone back to the original manuscript sources to offer us her version of a masterpiece of the violin repertoire. In Bach’s time, music for solo instruments was still little explored territory, and his sonatas, partitas and suites immediately established themselves as a benchmark, technically challenging and brimming with creativity. Isabelle’s previous recording was our best selling title over the Christmas period.