This latest release from that great musical adventurer, violinist Isabelle Faust, is not only a homage to the multifaceted genius of JS Bach, but a tribute to her own.

It’s coming up for 20 years since Faust last explored Bach’s violin concertos, both reconstructed and original, in the studio. Back then, it was with Helmuth Rilling and the Bach-Collegium Stuttgart, as part of Hänssler’s ‘complete’ Bach edition. It’s now also nearly ten years since she recorded the master’s sonatas and partitas for unaccompanied violin. And just last year, she recorded the sonatas for violin and obbligato harpsichord, with the superb keyboardist Kristian Bezuidenhout.

Clearly the music of Bach is important to Faust, a musician who, while not a period-instrument specialist, takes historical performance practice very seriously, whether she’s performing Bach or Brahms. As for the raison d’être for this present double CD set, in Faust’s own words:

“This time I wanted to show the violin in different roles, in as wide a sound palette and as many diverse forms as possible, from trio sonata and sinfonia movement through overture-suite and double concerto to full orchestra with trumpets and timpani. Here too Bach repeatedly finds innovative ways of exploring violinistic possibilities; he uses every conceivable form of expression and places the violin in ever-new relations, according to the context and content of each individual piece.”

Thus, we not only have the familiar concertos for solo violin in E Major and A Minor and the concerto for two violins in D Minor. We also have two reconstructed concertos for solo violin, and one for violin and oboe; in addition, we have two trio sonatas, adapted from their solo organ versions, and three sinfonias (two from cantatas) in which the violin plays a prominent part. Then there is the famous Overture (Suite No 2), here presented in a putative early version in A Minor for violin, rather than flute, and strings.

For these performances, Faust has teamed up yet again with a period instrument band, this time the brilliant Akademie für Alte Musik and director Bernhard Forck. Her fellow soloists are Forck (violin) and Xenia Löffler (oboe and recorder); on continuo duty are cellist Jan Freiheit and harpsichordist Raphael Alpermann.

And OMG, what performances they are! Faust almost seems to speak (sing?) Bach as though it’s her first language now, such is her ability not just to extemporise ornaments and longer passages but beautifully articulate the spaces around the notes (this latter goes for all the musicians, actually) better to reveal Bach’s musical argument, whether in a solo, chamber or orchestral context.


Composer: Bach
Composition: Violin Concertos, Sinfonias, Overture, Sonatas
Performer: Isabelle Faust v, Akademie für Alte Musik/Bernhard Forck
Catalogue Number: HMM90233536 (2CD)