Composers: JS Bach
Compositions: The Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin
Performers: Thomas Zehetmair
Catalogue Number: ECM 4818558 (2CD)

Here is another successful attempt on the Everest of the solo violin repertoire as Thomas Zehetmair performs Bach’s Sonatas on his Eberle violin of c.1750 and the Partitas on an unknown violin c.1685 of South Tyrol origin (coincidently the years of Bach’s birth and death).

The entire oeuvre radiates a virtuosity that conceals virtuosity, if you like, and becomes a sublimation of a genre. The central structure in the three sonatas is a full-scale fugue and the other movements are, in effect, a prelude and postlude to the mighty eminences between them. Zehetmair begins as he means to continue: the opening adagio to the first sonata is full of solemn grace, with shards of refracted colour rather like “shot” fabric combining austere beauty with passion. The statelier movements throughout both Sonatas and Partitas – the Allemandes and Sarabandes – combine breadth and dignity and melodic expressiveness. In the great Chaconne of the Partita No 2 in D Minor Zehetmair take 12 minutes against Thomas Bowes’ 20. Both versions are superbly engrossing.

In the Third Sonata, he captures the gentle pulse of the andante, an oasis of repose between the vigour of the preceding fugue and the dash of the concluding allegro. In the final Partita No 3, he unleashes a cornucopia of exuberance from the coruscating opening measures of the Prelude to the untrammelled joy of the Bourree and Gigue, as if to dispel the graver atmosphere of the previous works.