THE STRAD RECOMMENDS
The Strad Issue: January 2007
Musicians: Jacqueline Ross (violin)
The first interest of this traversal of solo Bach lies in the violin: an Andrea Amati of 1570, the sort of instrument more often viewed in these pages than heard, especially in the flesh. In capturing its eggshell tints of tone colour, the ASV engineers have not filtered out some traffic noise around the Highgate church where it was recorded, but the distraction is minimal unless headphones are used.
Jacqueline Ross is a more self-effacing interpreter than John Holloway (ECM) and Rachel Podger (Channel Classics), highly attuned to the cycle’s intimate, even domestic origins. Some slightly slithery bowing aside, her virtues are neatness and unerring good sense in shaping an unbroken line on the page into sentences and paragraphs: not to be underestimated when the catalogue bulges with heavily ‘interpreted’ accounts of these works.
Sometimes more intervention is called for: neither opening slow movement of the sonatas hangs together as it can and should. The fugues are deftly handled without the cumulative impact of imagined voices that one associates with the form: to turn to Maurice Duruflé playing the fugue in its reincarnation as the second half of BWV539 is, inevitably, to enter another realm of directed intensity. Ross makes hard work of touching in the supplementary notes of the chords in an effort to maintain the singing line of the principal voice: the result is clear and forward-moving but not always easy on the ear, especially in the denser passages of implied counterpoint. However, anyone other than Perlman devotees should take much pleasure from some companionable Bach playing.