Bach Sonatas and Partitas
Having marvelled at Maya Homburger’s final instalment of Bach’s Solo Sonatas and Partitas so recently (2/12), I find myself ever more in awe of the composer himself, for this music, in particular, continues to draw inspired performances from each successive generation of violinists. The French violinist Amandine Beyer, playing on a silky-toned copy of a Baroque violin by Pierre Jaquier, has recorded the entire set of three Sonatas and three Partitas, and an encore – a solo sonata by JG Pisendel, Bach’s contemporary, a pupil of Vivaldi and renowned German violinist.
These are fresh, spirited, finely judged performances. The tempi of the fast movements never seem too quick, though they often prove faster than those of other period players, and the slow movements are superbly paced. Interestingly, too, whereas many violinists take you with them on their personal odyssey, Beyer never plays on the listener’s emotions but instead maintains a sliver of detachment that, in the context of her stylish performances, seems appropriate for music that is almost 300 years old.
In the Sonatas, the Adagios are elegantly phrased, the Fugas spacious but never short of momentum, the third movements each made memorable in their way and the finales a wonderful combination of brilliant and relaxed. In the Partitas, a number of individual movements stand out: the B minor Allemande and its Double for the way in which Beyer allows the music to breathe, and the Corrente, where her bow conjures up swarms of butterflies fluttering and soaring through the air; the questioning, philosophic D minor Sarabande and that Chaconne, in which she sustains a deeply attractive sense of delicacy throughout; and the E major Loure – so danceable and beautifully ornamented in the repeats. In the end, the thread that runs through all six works is Beyer’s essential Frenchness, which is something Bach himself would have admired.
The Pisendel Sonata, perhaps more accessible for the player than the Bach, is appropriately positioned, presenting us with an apposite comparison, if ever one was needed, as well as a glimpse of Pisendel’s sense of improvisation, taste for purplish harmony and love of angular syncopation. An enormously enjoyable set.