The Strad Issue: January 2013
Description: A fascinating mixture of playing traditions revealed in Bach’s accompanied sonatas
Musicians: Michelle Makarski (violin) Keith Jarrett (piano)
Composer: Bach

Versatile violinist Michelle Makarski renews her fruitful association with legendary jazz pianist Keith Jarrett in these strikingly individual accounts. Jarrett emerges as the stronger personality and makes a persuasive case for using the piano in Bach performance, adopting a fresh, spontaneous approach and drawing a remarkable variety of colour from the instrument, especially in his solo movement in BWV1019. However, Makarski matches him all the way with responsive, spirited playing and an intuitive sense of style, full of expressive detail.

These performances have the sprightliness of a period-instrument approach, with crisp, clear articulations and fleet tempos – arguably too fleet in the finales of BWV1014 and 1015. Both players are adept at balancing the interplay of internal parts, preserving continuity of line and rhythmic flow and binding the music’s individual voices into a vibrant discourse – just sample the canonic Andante of BWV1015, the second movement of BWV1017 or the Vivace of BWV1018.

Although the players avoid dynamic extremes, individual movements are shaped with thoughtful musicianship and a rapt attention to expressive effect. Their individuality of approach stems from the freedom of their interpretations and their flexible rubato usage. Ornamentation is relatively discreet, as in the Largo of BWV1017, but Makarski’s proven improvisatory skills undoubtedly inflect her free reading of the Adagio of BWV1016. Her intonation is sometimes questionable, for example in the Adagios of BWV1014 and BWV1018, but balance is expertly managed. Regrettably, the booklet includes nothing whatsoever about the works, the artists or their interpretative intentions, and has little purpose other than to provide track details.