[37] Johann Sebastian Bach – Complete Sonatas & Partitas For Solo Violin

20 Dec

It amazes me that these complex rhythms and melodies (and at times even harmonies) are the work of a single instrument, a single performer.

Arthur Grumiaux

Arthur Grumiaux











For all the sprightly acrobatics of The Brandenburg Concertos, Bach manages to cram even more complexity into these compositions. Whereas The Brandenburg provided a wall of sound to wallow in, these Sonatas and Partitas in contrast have only a pinprick, usually only a single note, to focus on at any moment.

The music here demands attention.

The level of skill required of anyone attempting to play these passages is daunting. To play them as flawlessly as Arthur Grumiaux does here is a phenomenal achievement, even before discovering that some of the notation, as originally written by Bach, appears physically impossible!

Just the level of endurance required to complete the variations (aptly called “Doubles”) of Partita #1 in B minor is mind-boggling.

Despite the obvious technically acumen on display, the music still manages to hit an occasional emotional chord, as in the opening of Sonata #2 in A minor when an overwhelming melancholy cuts through the ears and into the heart.

Or at least it did for me.

After the pace quickens again, the fast flowing melodies – played so cleanly on what is essentially a single note instrument – are breathtaking. So when chords and harmonies are sketched, or on occasion outright played, it takes the listener to another level.

Although intellectually this is all wonderful stuff – precise, purposeful, impressive – it is not exactly *fun*. I am unsure how often I will choose to listen again in future.

But listening to the entire two hours of music in one sitting, the sound begins to take on an otherworldly quality. The whole is somehow outside of the everyday.

If that’s not reason to hear it at least once in a lifetime, I don’t know what is.

Owned before blogging? No. (2 of 37. 5%)
Heard before blogging? No. (4 of 37. 11%)
Recommend? Yes. (31 of 37. 84%)

Next Week: Johann Sebastian Bach – The Well Tempered Clavier Book 1

3 Responses to “[37] Johann Sebastian Bach – Complete Sonatas & Partitas For Solo Violin”


  1. [38] Johann Sebastian Bach – The Well Tempered Clavier Book 1 | . . . To Hear Before I Blog - December 27, 2013

    […] small but perfectly formed structures. They are worlds apart from the complexities of Bach’s solo violin works, beautiful and […]

  2. [39] Johann Sebastian Bach – Mass in B Minor | . . . To Hear Before I Blog - January 3, 2014

    […] seems fair that the same mind that composed the huge Brandenburg Concertos, the tiny and complex solo violin pieces and the technical exploration of the Well Tempered Clavier should also be able to add the subtle […]

  3. [166] Pablo Casals – Bach: Cello Suites Vols. 1 & 2 | . . . To Hear Before I Blog - January 15, 2020

    […] surprised at my love for these two hours of compositions – I have already recommended four out of four J. S. Bach recordings.  I wonder if Moon has any more hiding in wait in the next eight […]

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