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Bach: Sonatas & Partitas for Violin Solo

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Barnes & Noble - Scott Paulin
Not every record label would release two major recordings of the same music just a year apart, but the innovative minds at ECM New Series knew exactly what they were doing here: John Holloway’s new set of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas couldn’t be more different from Gidon Kremer’s highly acclaimed recent version. Taken separately, they’re among the best of their kind, Kremer’s boldly analytical interpretation exploring the modern violin’s full range of sonority, Holloway’s historically informed performance revealing the unique expressive qualities of a Baroque instrument. Taken together, however, Kremer and Holloway offer the listener an even richer experience, ...
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Editorial Reviews

Barnes & Noble - Scott Paulin
Not every record label would release two major recordings of the same music just a year apart, but the innovative minds at ECM New Series knew exactly what they were doing here: John Holloway’s new set of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas couldn’t be more different from Gidon Kremer’s highly acclaimed recent version. Taken separately, they’re among the best of their kind, Kremer’s boldly analytical interpretation exploring the modern violin’s full range of sonority, Holloway’s historically informed performance revealing the unique expressive qualities of a Baroque instrument. Taken together, however, Kremer and Holloway offer the listener an even richer experience, illuminating Bach’s music from contrasting but compatible perspectives. Holloway’s is the warmer performance of the two, though that’s not always to be expected from period instruments; his violin sound has a distinctive character, and it’s allowed to resonate spaciously in the Austrian monastery where he was recorded. Playing from Bach’s autograph score, he observes details of articulation that most violinists don’t, and he’s said -- quite rightly -- that the Sonatas and Partitas are practically an encyclopedia of the technical possibilities and problems of the 18th-century violin. But Holloway follows the composer in transcending these challenges into pure poetry. Lyrical movements particularly stand out, like the Andante of the Second Sonata, in which Holloway gives the melody line such a distinct tone color from the accompaniment that there is the illusion of a duet between two musicians. Also striking is the momentum Holloway builds through the endlessly cycling rhythms of dance movements like the Corrente and Giga of the Second Partita, while the famous closing Ciaccona from that work manages an epic quality without becoming overwrought in the effort of clearing the technical hurdles. At every turn, in fact, Holloway’s approach pays dividends, reconciling intellectual and purely musical beauty for an unusually well-rounded portrait of Bach.
All Music Guide - James Manheim
Bach's sonatas and partitas for solo violin have inspired divergent interpretations -- perhaps more divergent even than any other Bach works. Some players treat them as mystical, hermetic texts and strive for a kind of severe beauty. For violinists of the Romantic school, by contrast, they were often supremely passionate works, with a full catalog of expressive devices married to the most technically challenging materials. For Baroque violinist John Holloway, they are something else again: "a compendium of Baroque violin technique [that] is both a challenge and an opportunity." Holloway's agile readings fall into a group that treats Bach's works as the apex of a series of technical studies that dated well back into the seventeenth century, rather than as strange and isolated works. He makes a strong case for the appropriateness of the Baroque violin in these pieces -- it seems throughout that the music, while certainly difficult, doesn't make him sweat. Passagework runs off the strings in flowing streams. The tough second-movement fugue in the "Sonata No. 3 in C major, BWV 1005," sounds brisk and clean in its double and triple stops, not -- as they can in lesser hands on a modern violin -- like someone trying to start a lawn mower. And after hearing Holloway you'll never listen to the massive Chaconne that closes the "Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004," in quite the same way again. The sheer difficulty of this movement seems to cause players, especially those who normally traffic in the Romantic classics on a modern violin, to imbue the central shift to D major with a kind of cathartic triumph. Holloway is considerably more restrained, and the music he makes here doesn't seem quite so extreme; the work as he plays it seems more of a piece with the rest of Bach's output, and that's probably a good thing. ECM recorded the work at the Propstei St. Gerold, an Austrian monastery with live, brilliant sound that's lovely for choral music but a bit lofty and lonesome for violin music intended for the well-upholstered chambers of a noble family. Holloway's calm application of superior skills to this music, however, comes to seem entirely appropriate as you immerse yourself in his performance.
Gramophone - Duncan Druce
The aim is to bring out the music's rhetorical, expressive character and Holloway succeeds brilliantly.
San Francisco Chronicle - Joshua Kosman
It's the rare performer who can make you hear familiar fare as if it were new, but John Holloway is one.... Each individual movement stands out in a new and provocative light.
Dallas Morning News - Lawson Taitte
[Grade: A] Mr. Holloway makes every note speak, separating out the contrapuntal lines and varying his phrases with subtle rubato without breaking the musical line.... This is now the top recommendation for those who prefer instrumental authenticity.
San Jose Mercury News - Richard Scheinin
Exquisite and riveting.

The aim is to bring out the music's rhetorical, expressive character and Holloway succeeds brilliantly.
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Product Details

  • Release Date: 10/10/2006
  • Label: Ecm Records
  • UPC: 028947631521
  • Catalog Number: 000762102

Tracks

Disc 1
  1. 1–4 Sonata for solo violin No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001 - Johann Sebastian Bach & John Holloway (15:47)
  2. 5–12 Partita for solo violin No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002 - Johann Sebastian Bach & John Holloway (27:42)
  3. 13–16 Sonata for solo violin No. 2 in A minor, BWV 1003 - Johann Sebastian Bach & John Holloway (21:00)
Disc 2
  1. 1–5 Partita for solo violin No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004 - Johann Sebastian Bach & John Holloway (27:43)
  2. 6–9 Sonata for solo violin No. 3 in C major, BWV 1005 - Johann Sebastian Bach & John Holloway (22:57)
  3. 10–16 Partita for solo violin No. 3 in E major, BWV 1006 - Johann Sebastian Bach & John Holloway (17:11)
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Album Credits

Performance Credits
John Holloway Primary Artist
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