JS BACH Sonatas and Partitas (Gandelsman)
Bach’s Violin Sonatas and Partitas are among the most frequently performed works for the instrument, or any instrument. Recordings evince a spectrum of approaches, from historical treatments on period instruments to concepts Romantic and beyond. Among the newest journeys is Johnny Gandelsman’s freshly considered account of these monuments. The violinist, a co-founder of the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and a member of Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, imbues the music with a lean, focused sound, animating rhythmic impulses, and sterling attention to line and harmonic implication.
Gandelsman plays his modern violin with gut strings, transitional bow and whispers of vibrato, offering something of a crossover view of the Sonatas and Partitas. The performances abound in nuance and character, with every note, even in multiple stops, emerging in lucid detail. But what’s most arresting is the violinist’s ability to tie phrases together with seamless inevitability and provide a fluent sense of structure from beginning to end. Gandelman’s keen ear for the long-term is most evident in Partita No 2’s mammoth Chaconne, which he shapes with both forthright vigour and ruminative elasticity. Some violinists stress the work’s epic and spiritual ramifications; Gandelsman’s subtle urgency has its own commanding impact, especially given the taste and agility of the reading.
In the various dance movements, the violinist revels in the music’s irresistible motion, whether lilting or courtly, almost as if he is improvising. And Gandelsman imbeds himself in the interweaving layers of the fugues to luminous effect.