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JS Bach Solo Violin Sonatas and Partitas, BWV1001‑1006 Johnny Gandelsman vn In a Circle F b ICR101 (124’ • DDD)
Bach’s Violin Sonatas and Partitas are among the most frequently performed works for the instrument, or any instrument. Recordings evince a spectrum of approaches, from historical treatments on period instruments to concepts Romantic and beyond. Among the newest journeys is Johnny Gandelsman’s freshly considered account of these monuments. The violinist, a co-founder of the string quartet Brooklyn Rider and a member of Yo‑Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, imbues the music with a lean, focused sound, animating rhythmic impulses, and sterling attention to line and harmonic implication.
Gandelsman plays his modern violin with gut strings, transitional bow and whispers of vibrato, offering something of a crossover view of the Sonatas and Partitas. The performances abound in nuance and character, with every note, even in multiple stops, emerging in lucid detail. But what’s most arresting is the violinist’s ability to tie phrases together with seamless inevitability and provide a fluent sense of structure from beginning to end. Gandelman’s keen ear for the long-term is most evident in Partita No 2’s mammoth Chaconne, which he shapes with both forthright vigour and ruminative elasticity. Some violinists stress the work’s epic and spiritual ramifications; Gandelsman’s subtle urgency has its own commanding impact, especially given the taste and agility of the reading.
In the various dance movements, the violinist revels in the music’s irresistible motion, whether lilting or courtly, almost as if he is improvising. And Gandelsman imbeds himself in the interweaving layers of the fugues to luminous effect. Donald Rosenberg talks to ... Johnny Gandelsman The violinist and co-founder of Brooklyn Rider discusses his debut solo recording of Bach
Was it a challenge to plunge straight into Bach for your first solo recording? Not really . Over the the last three years I’ve performed all six Sonatas and Partitas in concert about 30 times, which has been deeply rewarding. I want ed to capture this moment of personal learning and growth.
Does your varied musical diet – folk, jazz, classical – influence your approach to Bach? Absolutely. Through my work with Brooklyn Rider and Silk Road Ensemble I have been lucky to work with incredible masters of various non-classical traditions. When working on the opening movement of the G minor Sonata, for example, I tried to imagine how the great Iranian kemancheh virtuo so Kayhan Kalhor would approach and develop an improvisation. When working on the Partitas, I often thought of the incredible Irish fiddler Martin Hayes. Like Kayhan, Martin is a magician with the bow, with great articulation and maximum freedom of expression.
Do you miss the collaborative process when playing alone, or is it in some sense liberating? One of the reasons I wanted t o work on solo Bach at this point in my life was to focus in ward, after spending almost two decades mostly working in collaborative settings. I found it incredibly fulfilling, from carrying sole music al responsibility for a performance to the simple things like travelling by myself. Of course there are moments of self doubt, and those are particularly lonely and frustrating, but overall it’s been a good journey.
What is your next recording project? I have some ideas – watch this space!
Danielpour String Quartets – No 5, ‘In Search of La vita nuova’; No 6, ‘Addio’; No 7, ‘Psalms of Solace’a a Hila Plitmann sop Delray Quartet Naxos American Classics M 8 559845 (76’ • DDD • T/t)
As with his symphonies and concertos, Richard Danielpour (b1956) likes to give his quartets (there are seven, spread fairly evenly through his career) descriptive titles. No 5 (2004) bears the sobriquet In Search of La vita nuova, a quotation from Dante indicative of Danielpour’s longstanding love of Italy, where it and its successor, Addio (2009), were composed. The Fifth’s three modest movements, written for and intended to give pleasure primarily, follow a moderate-fast-slow pattern repeated but extended in No 6, an altogether more ambitious work with a gravity missing from the Fifth. Danielpour writes in the notes that the Sixth ‘narrates the story of how families are eventually broken apart through distance, time, and ultimately through death’; the close of the opening movement has the same moving simplicity as Barber’s Adagio (originally written as part of a string quartet), but without the melodic distinction.
GRAMOPHONE APRIL 2018 I