In this version of the D minor partia the musicologist Professor Helga Thoene has identified chorales to be inserted between the partita’s movements. Her belief is that, like Bach’s other solo violin works, the partita is constructed on hidden melodic ideas from existing chorales; in this arrangement, violin and voices are intermingled. A synthesis of the two occurs in the concluding Chaconne, where the violin part is embedded in fragments of the chorales it covertly refers to, most notably from Martin Luther’s easter hymn ‘Christ lag in Todesbanden’.
Professor Thoene is convinced the famous Chaconne was written in response to the death of Bach’s first wife and that the work is a coded act of memorial (hence its pairing with another ‘requiem’ on this disc). The choral treatment is fascinating and gives a completely new perspective to the partita, turning it almost into a cantata. In the closing movement the violin is confirmed as a voice among other voices.
Gordan Nikolitch’s playing of the solo violin part favours a slightly parched, baroque sound and displays a great sense of freedom. In the final Chaconne he is a sensitive partner to the singers. As to the Fauré, which follows without a break, Tenebrae perform the reduced chamber version arranged by John Rutter, and it is hard to imagine a better performance. Fans of the ‘Pie Jesu’ will enjoy comparing the limpid, pitch perfect sound of Grace Davidson with sopranos in other versions.
James Mallinson - LSO Live Producer
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