VILSMAŸR Six Partitas
Anyone who listened to Vaughan Jones’s 2014 release, ‘The Hidden Violin’ (7/14), will know that repertoire rarities don’t always produce a winner of an album. To say that Jones’s latest two-disc set is a great deal more rewarding is something of an understatement. Yes, it’s obscure repertoire once more; but this is music that demands our full attention, presented in such a manner as to ensure that it gets it.
The main event is the first-ever recording of the complete, original set of Six Partitas by Johann Joseph Vilsmaÿr, who worked as an increasingly prominent violinist at the Salzburg court between 1689 and his death in 1722. His Partitas, which pre-date those of Bach by at least five years, are challenging polyphonic works, full of double- and triple-stops, arpeggiated chords and implied conversations between musical lines. French and Italian influences are audible, as is that of Austrian folk music, but the take-home point is simply that they’re intensely beautiful works that constantly tickle the ear with fresh moods, styles and effects as they dance along. Add the immaculate technical precision and immense musicality of Jones’s playing (on a gut-strung modern instrument tuned at A=440kHz and played with a replica snakewood Baroque bow), set it all within the subtly ample acoustic of the church of St Mary Magdalene in Willen, Buckinghamshire, and you have something of a recording triumph which the programme’s other two works only build upon.
First, Pisendel’s Sonata in A minor. Then, to finish, a story: Biber’s The Guardian Angel Sonata, No 16 from the Mystery Sonatas, played with a purity, profundity and sense of dramatic architecture that truly stops you in your tracks. Really, bravo.