Session Report: A question of balance

Fabio Biondi performing pc Wojciech Grzedzinski

Italian violinist Fabio Biondi’s new album of Bach Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin marks a unique opportunity to challenge established interpretations and beliefs surrounding these seminal works, writes Rita Fernandes

’I wanted to do something different. But different for which world? The Baroque world or the modern world? It’s true my career has been largely dedicated to Baroque music, but I try to have a wider perspective.’ On his new album featuring Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, Italian violinist Fabio Biondi aims to tackle what he describes as ‘maniacal’ views in the world of historically informed performance. Less interested in practical matters such as period instruments or pitch, the violinist is instead fascinated by Bach’s musical language. ‘The priority should be learning the language, then using it to find different ways of approaching each piece,’ he says. Of course, such idolised music comes with high expectations, and it demands a balanced approach. ‘It is delicate and difficult. You can’t invent too much. The album presented a good opportunity to join modern performance practices with Baroque music and say, “It’s time to share, not to make a point, or to prove that something is true or false.”

It’s surprising to hear that an artist as accomplished as Biondi was anxious before making the album. ‘My feelings about the Sonatas and Partitas are strange. I have played them many times, but for this recording I was scared I was not mature enough. And the pandemic was a good friend in this respect, as it gave me time to think very deeply about different aspects of the pieces.’ Biondi also says that much of the attraction of the project lay in the fact that it would push his boundaries – something that comes with interpreting such widely known works. ‘From the moment I decided to do the album, I always played the whole set all together. I put the focus on this project for a whole year.’…

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