Impeccable if emotionally restrained readings of masterly sonatas

Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch: Bach

The Strad Issue: April 2024

Description: Impeccable if emotionally restrained readings of masterly sonatas

Musicians: Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch (violin) Tuija Hakkila (fortepiano)

Works: Bach: Sonatas for keyboard and violin BWV1014–19

Catalogue number: ONDINE ODE1446-2D

Although Bach wrote these sonatas for violin and harpsichord, it is quite possible that they were played on a fortepiano in his lifetime. Bach was not initially keen when Gottfried Silbermann showed him his first attempts at the instrument, but by 1747 he reacted positively to the improvements that had been made.

This recording by two Finnish early-music specialists keeps an impeccable balance between the three contrapuntal lines. The sweet tones of Kaakinen-Pilch’s 1691 Rogeri violin sing out in the church acoustic and the use of a fortepiano (by Silbermann) means both instruments can temper their dynamics. I did sometimes yearn for the harpsichord’s crispness, but soon acclimatised to the more legato sound created by struck rather than plucked strings.

Some might find the playing rather reserved. In the slow movements with which Bach opened the first five sonatas, Kaakinen-Pilch uses the lightest of expressive brush strokes, uncompromisingly non-vibrato and with only the slightest right-hand pressure to add emotion. At its best the music speaks for itself, however, the long notes beautiful in their plainness.

Several of the fast movements feel rather flat and overly academic but happily those in the Sixth Sonata in G major bounce along infectiously, its opening Allegro taken at an energetic pace and its gigue-like final movement leaping and trilling with humour and style.