A second volume fails to make its mark in a much-recorded field

Frank Peter Zimmermann: Bach

The Strad Issue: January 2024

Description: A second volume fails to make its mark in a much-recorded field

Musicians: Frank Peter Zimmermann (violin)

Works: Bach: Solo Sonatas and Partitas vol.2: Partita no.1 in B minor BWV1002; Sonatas: no.1 in G minor BWV1001, no.3 in C major BWV1005

Catalogue number: BIS BIS-2587 (SACD)

Like Augustin Hadelich and Bojan Čičić before him, Frank Peter Zimmermann used the pandemic lockdown to immerse himself in Bach’s solo violin works and subsequently record them (vol.1 was reviewed by Peter Quantrill in May 2022).

Zimmermann offers interpretations that are accurate and assured, if occasionally experimental and idiosyncratic. He has given much thought to the significance of note lengths, tonal colour and pliability in delineating Bach’s part-writing, especially in the First Partita and the sonatas’ fugues, and he has also embraced some aspects of historically informed performance. He adopts for the most part a light, well-articulated bowing style, although occasional forceful interjections, as in the sonatas’ adagios, seem as if bolts from the blue. He also uses a narrow vibrato selectively and introduces extensive extempore ornamentation, sometimes to the point of misguidedness, as in one arpeggiated section in the fugue of BWV1001 and in BWV1002’s doubles.

A sound sense of musical architecture underpins the direction and pacing of most movements, but the express finales of both sonatas tend merely to resemble exercises in left-hand finger dexterity. The dynamic range overall is not especially wide-ranging, but there is some striking soft playing in the double of BWV1002’s Sarabande.

Captured in two different venues, the recordings seem pitched sharper than the norm, but are otherwise clear and resonant.

Robin Stowell