The Strad Issue: January 2008
Musicians: Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin) Enrico Pace (piano)
Composer: Bach

A constant feature of these performances is the space between the notes. Frank Peter Zimmermann favours a clipped style of playing, bringing to the semiquaver passages of faster movements in particular a level of articulation sometimes just this side of spiccato. Enrico Pace, evidently aware of not playing a harpsichord, does similar, and produces light, sparkling sounds. Together they show a sensitive regard for Bach’s counterpoint, which this joint clarity of playing renders wonderfully clear.

Many of the movements emerge as true three part-inventions, with the violin primus inter pares. There is a lovely moment in the Largo of the Sixth Sonata when the three-part writing is joined by a fourth voice in the keyboard, and the tone of both players gently warms. For Bach’s melodies Zimmermann produces a beautifully creamy legato: in the Adagio of the Third Sonata his sound floats above the keyboard in airy meditation.

For all the character and detail they contain, these are nonetheless restrained performances. The dynamic range is not large, although there is some rivetingly soft playing. Zimmerman’s vibrato is discreet, and becomes more prominent only to add occasional stress and colour. Tempos too are generally just so: nothing scampers or falls into indulgent reverie, and rubato is used only occasionally. Energy is generated through phrasing rather than speed. Everything here is of a piece, balanced, thoughtful, affecting and beautiful, and all contained by a finely judged and temperate sense of scale. The recorded sound is clear and close.   

Tim Homfray