HIGH RESOLUTION AUDIO A GRAMOPHONE GUIDE
Superb sounding RECORDINGS
Every issue our Audio Editor Andrew Everard chooses an Editor's Choice release which stands out for its superior sound quality – so what better way to explore high-resolution audio? Here are his recommendations from the past 12 months, complete with the original reviews
JS Bach Solo Cello Suite No 1, BWV1007 (arr Dunford). Suite, BWV995. Solo Violin Partita No 2, BWV1004 – Chaconne (arr Dunford) Thomas Dunford archlute Alpha F ALPHA361 (56’ • DDD)
lends it a certain propulsion that looks back to the previous movement’s crisp Gigue and forwards to the final work on the recording, a brilliant, dramatic reading of Bach’s D minor Chaconne, again in Dunford’s arrangement. William Yeoman
The Paris-born lutenist Thomas Dunford is known for his sensitive,
imaginative continuo work in ensembles such as Jonathan Cohen’s Arcangelo. Indeed, this year he formed his own Baroque ensemble, Jupiter. So one might expect his solo playing to exhibit a certain expansiveness, theatricality even, or at least a liberal use of harmonic, melodic and rhythmic ornamentation.
But no. What we get with Dunford’s Bach is instead a certain purity, a relatively unadorned line which assimilates articulation in favour of flow and clarity. The expression – of form or emotion – is all in the phrasing, which relies on the art of silence as much as a subtle rubato. It’s quite beautiful and refreshing, as though excrescences have been shorn away to reveal the classical architecture underneath.
In Dunford’s arrangement of Bach’s First Cello Suite, the implied bass line is less manifested than expected. Appoggiaturas are favoured over trills; mordants are similarly eschewed. One has only to hear the superb, liberally ornamented 2012 recording by Dunford’s erstwhile teacher, Hopkinson Smith (Naïve, 8/13), to realise Dunford is after something different here. (It should be noted, too, that Dunford is playing an archlute, a smaller instrument than Smith’s theorbo, though both have extended necks with unstopped bass strings.)
Bach’s own arrangement for lute of his Fifth Cello Suite is more richly realised in performance; the Prelude’s rapid fugue also
Andrew Everard writes The cover is suitably 'rock and roll', as be its Dunford's image, and the playing here conveys the rhythmic joy of these familiar pieces arranged by the lutenist. But there’s great charm in the recording, which shines through in 96kHz/24bit high-resolution, bringing out all the resonance of both instrument and the recorded acoustic. This set is not just demonstration quality, but a pleasure throughout.
JS Bach Solo Violin Sonatas – No 1, BWV1001; No 2, BWV1003. Solo Violin Partita No 1, BWV1002 Hilary Hahn vn Decca F 483 3954DH; F b 6 483 4181DH2 (76’ • DDD)
For all the appreciable virtues offered by recent contenders in the Bach Sonatas and Partitas field, I cannot think of a single performer who begins to compare with Hilary Hahn. This is quite simply magnificent violin-playing, the sort that while you’re listening to it convinces you that the music couldn’t possibly be played any other way. One only need sample the elevated flight of the A minor Sonata’s opening Grave, playing that combines candid expression with expertly judged pacing, to confirm the extent of Hahn’s achievement. The fugues of both the A minor and G minor Sonatas abound in such ploys as ‘statement and echo’, variegated attack, carefully placed diminuendos and crescendos, a warming legato and chords that are strong without resorting to textural coarseness. Compare the first minute or so of the A minor Fugue with the Fugue from the C major Sonata included on Hahn’s first solo Bach album (Sony, 2/98 – which features the other half of the solo cycle) and you soon realise just how far she’s come since her teenage years, the tempo marginally more mobile and the variety of nuance and tone on offer so much wider than it had been.
And what about the A minor Sonata’s gently pulsing Andante? To call this playing miraculous might seem like hyperbolic overkill, until you actually hear it for yourself. Not since Heifetz, whose approach is similarly vocal, have I heard such eloquent reportage of this heavenly music, Hahn keeping the gently palpitating accompaniment audibly supportive of the top line, her sound consistently warm, her tone rich but never overbearing, the general mood solemnly imploring. Come the midway point (at around 2'46") and she cues a brief pause for breath, which in turn allows us room for thought. Indeed, I would cite this track in particular (track 15) as an appropriate sampling point for anyone who normally finds Bach’s solo violin music a bit of a slog to listen to, the sound and approach are so utterly seductive.
The opening of the G minor Sonata’s Adagio is uncommonly broad, the ensuing monologue full of light and shade, the first four notes of the fugue that follows built on a subtle crescendo. As with the A minor Sonata’s Fugue, Hahn makes expressive capital out of Bach’s arpeggiated writing (which at 2'03" excitedly takes flight) with never a hint of ugliness. The B minor Partita is no less beautiful, the Allemande morphing into its ‘double’ on an even keel, Hahn here employing finely spun vibrato. All this made me wish that she’d now go back and re-record that first (Sony) programme so that we could have all six solo works captured in what is surely her prime. The actual recording process was interesting in that Hahn started working on the new album some six years ago. She then shelved what she had done and went back to
6 GRAMOPHONE JULY 2019 | gramophone.co.uk
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