The Strad Issue: January 2006
Musicians: Monica Huggett (violin), Sonnerie
Composer: J.S. Bach

An instinctive period violinist with excellent technical command, Monica Huggett offers positive, largely robust accounts of these concertos, enlivening their outer movements with vital, incisive playing. She is amply assisted by the members of Sonnerie, who, one-per-part, support with crisp attack, rhythmic drive and unanimity of sound and purpose; sample, for instance, the unison passages of the D minor Concerto’s first movement. Huggett introduces some elements of caprice with vigour and virtuosity, notably the cadential flourishes in both Allegros of BWV1052 and in the finale of BWV1041, although her particular addition in the latter movement seems a trifle incongruous. Other minor cavils include some forced tone, notably in the finale of BWV1056, some moments of questionable intonation, particularly in the first movement of BWV1052, and a rather sedate tempo for the first movement of BWV1056. Furthermore, Huggett’s rhythmic flexibility in the finale of BWV1041 may upset some traditionalists, even though it does give her performance a thoughtfully spontaneous air. The power of Bach’s writing is reinforced throughout by the close recorded balance and the resonant church acoustic.

Huggett plays the Adagios of BWV1042 and 1052 in a quasi-improvisatory manner and with striking poetry. She coaxes a lyrical flexibility from her violin, its singing qualities being enhanced by her expressive phrasing and her restrained but tellingly sweetening use of vibrato. By contrast, the Andante of BWV1041 seems fragmented in its phrasing and on the brisk side of the comfort zone, while the Adagio of BWV1056 suffers from an overzealous contribution from harpsichordist Matthew Halls.