Partitas No.1 in B minor, BWV 1002; No.3 in E, BWV 1006
Sonata No.2 in A minor, BWV 1003
Ilya Gringolts (violin)
Recorded in November 2002 at Galaxy Studios, Moi, Belgium
Reviewed by: Colin Anderson
Reviewed: September 2003
CD No: DG 474 235-2
These are strikingly individual performances, ones ’historically aware’ but not pedantic, ones formal but also demonstrative, both in terms of virtuosity and bringing the music alive. Ilya Gringolts approaches these works in terms of their harmonic and rhythmic construction, the bare bones of music, yet there’s a vivid communication, a desire that every note (and grace note) should mean something.
This mix of austerity and personal identification is very telling. The B minor Partita is grand in design. Gringolts emphasises this by big gestures without losing focus on the rhythmic shape of each movement. Maybe some accents are too strong, the dance element too emphatic, yet such is Gringolts’s concentration and strength of purpose that one is drawn willingly into his dynamic and intense viewpoint of this unquestionably great music.
Recorded closely, maybe too much so, and with Gringolts favouring little or no vibrato, there is a confrontational, unvarnished quality to these renditions, which I like – Gringolts wants us to take note of this music. He doesn’t lack for expressive ornamentation though – as the ’Grave’ opening the A minor Sonata displays. The following fugue is wonderfully clear in its lines. If all this sounds a little academic, it must also be stressed that Gringolts is really living this music, almost making it up on the spot, save that he has thought long and hard about style; maybe ’clean cut’ sums it up. But, then, he teases a very affecting ’Andante’ third movement that extends one’s appreciation of Gringolts’s art and Bach’s soul.
The delights of the E major Partita, its familiar ’Preludio’ encapsulating Gringolts’s (generally) rapier-like approach, includes a ’gavotte en rondeau’ that could be, has been, more charming – what is so persuasive, though, is that Gringolts has its shape and harmonic stress both ’authentic’ yet burgeoning with expressive outreach.
If one can have reservations regarding Gringolts’s overdone stabbing attack, and on the recording’s lack of ambience, there is no denying his verve and stylistic assurance. One assumes that a second, completing CD of this repertoire will appear.