A scintillating solo voyage into rarities of the early Baroque

Isabelle Faust: Solo

Isabelle Faust: Solo

The Strad Issue: December 2023

Description: A scintillating solo voyage into rarities of the early Baroque

Musicians: Isabelle Faust (violin)

Works: Biber: Rosary Sonatas: Passacaglia in G minor. Guillemain: Amusement pour le violon seul op.18 (selection). Matteis the Elder: Ayres for the violin (selection). Matteis the Younger: Fantasia in A minor ‘Alia Fantasia’. Pisendel: Sonata in A minor. Vilsmayr: Partita no.5 in G minor

Catalogue number: HARMONIA MUNDI HMM902678

Hot on the heels of Rachel Podger’s acclaimed Tutta sola album, Isabelle Faust’s disc aims similarly to acquaint listeners with selected, lesser-known solo violin music from the rich 17th- and 18th-century repertoire. She opens with Matteis the Younger’s arpeggio-based Fantasia, shaping it calmly with subtle rubato and, despite its left-hand stretches, the utmost precision. She is equally flexible, poised and artistic in extracts from Matteis the Elder’s Ayres and she dispatches the final three movements of Pisendel’s sonata with buoyancy and rhythmic verve.

Faust’s choices from Guillemain’s Amusement pour le violon seul op.18 vary from single-line movements, such as the contemplative Aria, to those with intricate multiple-stopping such as the Variatione. She consistently shapes phrases expressively, adds tasteful extempore ornamentation and captures the mood of each movement; regrettably, she alters the prescribed slurred staccato scalic flourish in the second Altro to a less amusant legato slur, but she nevertheless preserves the movement’s humour and dance character. Following a brief, arpeggio-based Prelude, dances predominate in Vilsmayr’s Fifth Partita; some, such as the Rigodon and Boure, along with the concluding Retirada (pizzicato et al.), find Faust using a more contemporary mode of attack, which spills over into her imaginative and finely judged account of the Passacaglia that closes Biber’s Rosary Sonatas. The recording is exemplary.