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Bach: Violin Sonatas & Partitas (Kyung Wha Chung)

Cd/Dvd Reviews - Instrumental


Violin sonatas and partitas
Kyung Wha Chung
Warner 0190295944162 (2CD)

by Paul Ballam-Cross on April 21, 2017 (April 21, 2017) filed under Instrumental | Comment Now
★★★★½ Chung's solo Bach has been well worth the waiting for.

After a hand injury in 2005, Kyung Wha Chung stepped away from the concert platform and turned to teaching. More than a decade later, this is her triumphant return to recording. Although Chung had recorded Partita No 2 and Sonata No 3 back in 1975, this disc is the complete Bach Sonatas and Partitas. They’re the solo violin Everest, since the player is completely exposed, without the reassuring safety net of an accompanist. At the same time, Bach demands the player navigate a thicket of interlocking lines of music. Tricky!

This is quite a different recording to most recent performances of these pieces. By now, there’s a fairly firmly ingrained tendency towards historically informed performances of Bach’s music, but here Chung neatly sidesteps the issue. It’s not that she ignores the HIP movement (on the contrary – tempos are fleet here, and vibrato is kept on the subtle side), but more that minor quibbles about stylistic approaches are exchanged for an intensely passionate performance. Chung describes this disc as a project that has been with her for 60 years, calling it “recording Unaccompanied Bach”, and it seems like those capital letters are important. This is a very personal reading of Bach’s music.

I recently reviewed Rachel Barton-Pine playing the same repertoire and described the market for solo violin Bach recordings as being rather on the crowded side already. I think this CD might be worth making a little extra room for.