- Sonata for solo violin No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001
This is violinist Kyung Wha Chung's first recording since she was sidelined by illness in the early 2000s, and it's fair to say she's returned with a bang. Legions of violinists have recorded Bach's monumental set of Sonatas and Partitas, but Chung, in her late sixties when the recordings were made for the Warner Classics label, offers something distinctive. Indeed, it's the kind of reading that an artist in mid- to late-career often comes up with: careful, flawless, and born of deep acquaintance with the music. Chung alternates passagework sections that pay close attention to subtle phrasing with sharp blasts in the chordal double- and triple-stops. Her deadpan passagework seems to owe something to the historical-performance movement, but this is otherwise a resolutely modern violin reading. The six pieces are taken in order, with the "Partita No. 2 in D minor for solo violin, BWV 1004," at the beginning; in the outsized chaconne at the end, the tensions that have built up over the course of this structure seem to undergo a controlled explosion. It's a remarkable performance, and anyone wondering whether the long layoff from recording has damaged Chung's abilities should sample it; so, for that matter, should anyone else, because it's thrilling. It's possible that there are individuals for whom the dry, rather sinewy quality of this recording might make it off-putting, but even those listeners are likely to find it absorbing on its own terms.