Jazz pianist Keith Jarrett has recorded Bach before, on both piano and harpsichord. His interpretations are not jazz versions of Bach but are played straight. In this case you might say relatively straight, for Bach's sonatas for violin and keyboard, BWV 1014-1019, were written for a harpsichord and are generally played that way; somehow the ear is jarred more by the piano here than in Bach's solo keyboard music (which Jarrett has also recorded). Jarrett fans will find the evidence of his characteristic style not in rhythmic inflections toward jazz but in his way of sustaining notes, which is never excessive.
Within 24 hours of hearing the violinist Joseph Szigeti playing Bach, Ysaÿe had made sketches for his own six solo Violin Sonatas, which constitute his single most substantial and remarkable work, drawing together influences as diverse as Gregorian chant, Spanish and Walloon folk music, French impressionism and, of course, Bach himself. These are virtuoso showpieces, but, as Philippe Graffin demonstrates, there is much in them that is yielding and gentle, such as the stately Sarabandes fromthe Second and Fourth Sonatas (the latter is dedicated to Fritz Kreisler) and the radiant evocation of dawn in the Fifth Sonata. Graffin adroitly negotiates these technical and expressive demands, and if there is an occasional lapse in clarity, it is compensated for by a compelling vitality.
These three sonatas - composed originally for the viola da gamba and harpsichord - are very musically-appealing compositions. And unlike previous Baroque cahmber-music tradition, the harpsichord is not relegated to mere continuo but projected into the spotlight as co-soloist - perhaps to showcase some of Bach's keyboard virtuosity. There are several fine period recordings of these works on viola da gamba and harpsichord (Savall, Peri, Crum, Wispelwey) or modern cello with harpsichord (Ma, Tortelier). But if your taste favors all modern instuments (cello, piano), then this circa-80's CD by the legendary Martha Argerich and Misha Maisky is the ticket.
Gidon Kremer has again recorded the Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin of Bach and while his facility and technical grace are intact, in this recording he appears to have been deeply influenced by his time with the moderns (Adams, Pärt, Schnittke, Piazzola, Glass, et al). For this listener it seems that studying and performing these contemporary composers' manipulation of sound and instrumental scope has enriched Kremer's thought about the perfection of Bach. Not everyone will agree with Kremer's approach to these works on this new recording, but for those who know Bach's solo violin pieces there are pleasures in store. Remaining technically suave and with a luxuriant tone, Kremer seems to be communicating with the psychological Bach, offering different tempi and more soulful approaches than those of his colleagues. The results are mesmerizing. Highly recommended.
Eugène Ysaÿe's Opus 27 Sonatas are incredible, unjustly neglected pieces from the canon of major works for solo violin. They demand transcendental virtuosity to bring them off, and a magician of Oscar Shumsky's calibre to breathe life into their bones. Each sonata has a clear identity, reflecting Ysaÿe's success in defining the musical characteristics of the several friends and dedicatees - Szigeti, Thibaud, Kreisler, Enesco, Crickboom and Quiroga. Shumsky uses his own powerful personality to enrich these performances, unmistakeably demonstrating his kinship with these great artists of the past, and produces an absorbtion with his task that is only rarely achieved in the recording studio.
The six Sonatas for flute and piano presented in this edition were written by Mozart when he was eight years old. They are dedicated to the Queen of England …
Staier's interpretation and delivery of these lesser known Baroque classics have come down to us in a reissued catalogue that surprises and delights both with the quality of the performance and the exemplary noise-free recording. This rare opportunity to encounter the extended Bach legacy in all its glory is sumptuously and indulgently displayed by a band of virtuoso players who can hold their own as soloists as well as perform naturally and convincingly as a team…By Mr. N. R. Birkhead