Sonatas & Partitas for Violin Solo[CD]
~ Garrett Fischbach
'Fischbach rises to the occasion, communicating a sense, in a cooperative reverberant setting, of the fugue's majestic, leisurely unfolding. He caps off the sonata with an Allegro assai that approaches Milstein's in panache.' '...obvious energy and enthusiasm...a jaunty alternative to more routine readings...sufficient rhythmic élan to recall anyone's wandering attention...' '...recommend the set to collectors and students of violin playing...' - Fanfare Magazine 'The playing is very clean... His textures are refreshingly light, and he often rolls his chords, as was done in the 18th Century, rather than break them. Sections of movements are clearly distinguished by changes in dynamics or articulation. He sometimes inserts his own personal touches, as in the Fugue in Sonata 1 where he plays one passage sul ponticello.' - American Record Guide The Sonatas and Partitas are technical wonders, seamlessly combining the intellectual and emotional, the craft and art, as one inseparable expression of the human spirit. While the study of antique styles is enlightening, an attempt to recreate an 'authentic' performance would be contrary to the inventive nature of this music, whose content easily transcends those issues. Bach's music encompasses all the joy, sorrow, love, and grandeur of human experience, while commanding the performer to bring it to life through his own eyes and heart. - Garrett Fischbach, New York, 2004 Garrett Fischbach has been a member of the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra viola section since 1998, and was a member of the San Francisco Symphony from 1996-98, and the National Symphony in Washington, D.C. from 1995-96. J.S. Bach - The Three Sonatas and Three Partitas for Solo Violin '...perhaps the greatest example in any art form of a master's ability to move with freedom and assurance, even in chains.' - Ludwig van Beethoven, from an 1805 review of the first published edition of Bach's Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin. The Three Sonatas and Three Partitas for solo violin occupy a unique and monumental position in both the violinist's repertoire and among the entire works of Johann Sebastian Bach. Nowhere else in Bach's music do we find any one work using a wider variety of forms, more thoroughly worked out contrapuntal writing, or greater displays of virtuosity. The sonatas are like 'one man' concerti grossi, where a lone violin does the work of an entire orchestra. The fugues are as highly developed and intricate as any example in the Bach repertoire. In each successive sonata the fugues increase in size and complexity, culminating with Sonata No. 3, whose fugue is longest of all Bach's fugues, a daunting statistic when considering the dimensions of the great organ works. The partitas are dance suites not unlike the ones found in Bach's orchestral suites or in the keyboard suites and partitas. Bach utilizes nine different dance forms, and although his dances retain the outer elements of the traditional stylized forms, there is no evidence either musical or historical to suggest they were actually danced to, rather these dances are purely musical in their construction and intent. Of particular interest are the doubles found in the first partita, where each of the four dances is followed by an ingeniously developed variation. The Partitas find their culmination perhaps with the famous Ciaccona in Partita No. 2, a work which rivals in size and complexity the great organ Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor. Even highly sophisticated listeners can get lost in the music's labyrinthine wanderings. While each individual sonata and partita constitutes a unified continuum, there is nothing that suggests the entire set is anything more than a collection of six similar but otherwise unrelated compositions. These pieces overflow with beautiful melodies, but it is in the complexity of their contrapuntal construction where Bach's true genius is found. The harmonic implications are so clearly stated that one can discern in the mind's ear a full working out of basso continuo and obbligato instruments. In the past, efforts were made to realize accompaniments, in the misguided attempt to make these works more universally appealing. Indeed, Bach himself used a number of the movements in other works in just such a fashion, but The Three Sonatas and Three Partitas for solo violin should remain unaccompanied, for when they are performed properly, no harmonic element is truly missing. To prove this point, one can compare them to the Bach violin concertos, which share many similarities in style and form. The solo violin in the concerti also plays continuously, weaving in and out of the first violin part, playing in unison during the tutti sections and then breaking away for the developmental episodes. If this solo violin part is performed unaccompanied, the listener often has to guess the underlying harmony, and other noticeable gaps are evident. This never happens in The Three Sonatas and Three Partitas for solo violin, where at all times a complete harmonic picture is present, through actual simultaneous notes or through multiple voices implied by broken chord figuration. The Three Sonatas and Three Partitas for solo violin have been surrounded by controversy and mystery since the beginning of serious Bach scholarship. We have no doubts regarding the actual score for this work, since two remarkably clear and nearly identical fair copies exist, one in Bach's hand and the other in that of his wife, Anna Magdalena. Questions such as why, for whom and for what purpose did Bach lavish so much attention on these pieces have troubled music historians for centuries. Since they are so frightfully difficult, speculation regarding Bach's ability to actually play them has often been debated. It is widely accepted that Bach's earliest instrumental training came from his father, himself an accomplished violinist and only a rudimentary keyboard player, and it is a known fact that Bach's first adult employment was with the capelle of Duke Johann Ernst of Saxe-Weimar, where violin playing was undoubtedly his principal duty. While in Weimar, Bach worked alongside violinist Johann Paul von Westhoff. The most famous German violinist of that time, Westhoff published his own works for unaccompanied violin, and may have been the initial inspiration for Bach's far superior effort. It is not too difficult to believe that someone with Bach's phenomenal musical abilities, trained from an early age by a qualified master, associating in his youth with a noted virtuoso, would in adulthood possess the technique necessary to perform the sonatas and partitas with distinction. In a recording, we are able to hear individual movements repeatedly, and as is often the case with truly great music, each playing can reveal something new, something previously unnoticed. Listening with a score in hand can be a rewarding experience, giving us the opportunity to see the multitude of contrapuntal artifices and the technical gymnastics a violinist must employ in order to play them. However one chooses to become familiar with The Three Sonatas and Three Partitas for solo violin, the rewards are plenty, for these works are timeless in their character and justifiably included on the list of the world's greatest music in any style or genre. Mark N. Peterson  Christopher Wolf. Johann Sebastian Bach, The Learned Musician p.471.
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