Johann Sebastian Bach. Sonatas and Partitias for Solo Violin.
Hlif Sigurjonsdottir, violin. 2 CDs. 65:31 and 73:11
Recorded by Sveinn Kjartannson, StudioSyrland, Reykjavik.
Produced in Iceland, seemingly by the performer.
Available from www.HlifSigurjons.is
Bach wrote all these solo violin pieces relatively early in his career,
when he was court composer at Anhalt-Coethen. During this period of
1717-1723, prior to his move to Leipzig for the rest of his life, his
duties involved only secular music.
These are exceptional-sounding recordings of these pieces, both with
respect to their sonics and the performances. The outstanding feature
of these recordings, one which very possibly distinguishes it from all
of the hundred and thirty seven recordings of Partita 2, not counting
the many additional versions of the Chaconne listed at ArkivMusic, is
their sonic ambience. The Partitas were recorded in 2000, 2001 and 2002,
and the Sonatas in October 2007 in a church north of Reykjavik. The
recorded sound is such that the listener (this one anyway) feels a great
sense of spaciousness, a sense that one is there in that place, something
I have noticed in very few recordings. There is here a particular kind
of resonance, unlike that of a wooden chamber, for instance, and certainly
more noticeable than the transparent sound of a studio recording. The
violin seems to have been miked at just the right distance; the sound
of the instrument is full, and for acoustic reasons I do not fully
understand this ambiance accentuates the subtle, but noticeable dynamic
range of the playing even within phrases, and the wide range of sounds
a violin can make. I suppose some listeners might find this sound edgy.
I find it satisfyingly expressive.
Sigurjonsdottir's phrasing is crystalline clear. (In different close
hearings a couple of months apart I found myself writing down this same
phrase.) Her music breathes and details are masterfully shaded. Her
tempos are not rigid and her timings, of individual movements, are both
slower and faster than other players (Hahn's for instance; I cannot even
begin to compare the vast number of recorded performances of these works).
Hlif Sigurjonsdottir was born in Copenhagen and grew up in Reykjavik.
Her musical studies brought her to Indiana, Toronto, Banff and New York
City. In Iceland, where shefirst performed with an orchestra at age 11,
she studied with a student of Adolf Busch andin New York she studied
with Gerald Beal, whose teacher was Jascha Heifetz. She has performed
widely in Europe and the U.S., including a recent concert in new York.
The CDs have the three Sonatas in order of composition on one disc and
the same arrangement of Partitas on the other. The titles and timings
of individual movements are given but, I regret to say, the recorded
bands are not numbered in the printed material, so you have to do that
Copyright 2010 by R. James Tobin
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