Bach Sonatas and Partitas, BWV1001-06
With these impressive performances (on her beautiful-toned Amati) of the Solo Sonatas and Partitas Monica Huggett sweeps other baroque interpretations off the board. She nails her colours firmly to the mast in her printed introductory note (which follows an uncommonly perceptive and informative commentary on the music by Mark Audus): her aim, she says, is a characteristically bright and sweet seventeenth-century timbre, and she declares herself less interested in the virtuoso aspect of the music, more in the “interior spirituality of the sonatas and the gracious elegance of the partitas”. That certainly does not imply any absence of virtuosity: there have been few recordings of these pillars of the repertoire so impeccable in intonation and so free from any tonal roughness.
Her rhythmic flexibility (very marked in the Chaconne) may upset some traditionalists, but it gives her readings a thoughtfully spontaneous air, and is always applied to clarify the phrasing. The B minor Corrente and D minor Allemande, for example, become more expressive through this subtle phrasing, and her G minor Presto and E major Prelude are not merely mechanically fluent. She is adept at balancing the interplay of internal parts and at preserving continuity of line (as in the D minor Sarabande) and rhythmic flow despite the irruption of chords: only in places in the gigantic C major Fugue did I feel this under strain and at the start of the B minor Bourree lost. There is a lively bounce in her D minor Courante and E major Gigue, and she is splendidly neat in the double of the B minor Courante and in the C major’s finale. For the most part she is very sparing with embellishments, decorating ritornellos of the E major Gavotte and the first half (only) of the D minor Sarabande, but then suddenly becomes lavish in the repeats of the A minor Allegro. Monica Huggett’s musicianly readings are very rewarding and are warmly to be recommended.