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Bach: The Sonatas And Partitas For Violin Solo / John Holloway


Release Date: 10/10/2006 
Label:  Ecm   Catalog #: 000762102   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  John Holloway
Number of Discs: 2 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 13 Mins. 

CD not available: This title is currently only available as an MP3 download.  

Notes and Editorial Reviews



BACH Violin Sonatas: No. 1 in g; No. 2 in a; No. 3 in C. Violin Partitas: No. 1 in b; No. 2 in d; No. 3 in E John Holloway (vn) (period instruments) ECM B000762102 (2 CDs: 132:36)


It may now seem difficult to remember the dark ages only a few generations ago when period instruments offered a sort of sanctuary for relatively challenged technicians, from which they could chuck fashionably astringent timbres at audiences. From such humble beginnings an edifice of great technical and musical splendor has arisen. Read more And now, John Holloway, who had more than a decade ago begun to explore in recordings the worlds of Biber and Schmelzer, has taken the logical step into the empyrean of Bach’s solo works for violin. Recorded in a reverberant ambiance, Holloway’s Baroque violin sounds as authoritative as Milstein’s Stradivarius fit up in the modern way. And those who take Milstein’s set as approaching the pinnacle should note that Holloway, like many other aficionados of “authenticity,” plays with individuality approaching Milstein’s—and an almost equal sovereignty, at least musical if not technical, all while following the manuscript, at least in choices of bowings. (I remember Carroll Glenn telling me that it might be a good idea to assume Bach knew what he was doing.) How distinctly a sign of the times it seems that those who so vociferously decry the personalities of the “golden age” obscuring the received musical message hardly flinch when period instrumentalists improvise and cavort while explicating those scriptures.


In the Sonata in G Minor, Holloway rolls the Adagio’s chords majestically, takes the Fuga at a leisurely tempo that permits him to improvise (or so he makes it seem) dramatically effective chordal patterns on the block structures that Bach indicated, traces the lines of what he describes as the melancholy Siciliana with affecting pathos, and dares to make of the Presto a dazzling perpetual motion that would astonish even Heifetz with its legerdemain and even Milstein with its musical penetration.


The tantalizing piquancy of Holloway’s dotted rhythms in the Partita in B Minor’s Allemande give way to a revealing account of its relatively crabbed double. In the next pair, the Corrente and its double, the textures reverse themselves, with Holloway giving the more pointed account of the arpeggiated dance itself and a virtuosic one of the double. In the Sarabande, Holloway adds ornamentation to the repeats (more, though, to the first than to the second). The double seems particularly suggestive at its slower tempo. But Holloway takes the Bourée and double briskly without losing a sense of either’s complexity.


In the Sonata in A Minor, Holloway’s ornamented lines in the Grave suggest improvisation. He takes the Fuga deliberately enough to allow its chromaticism to slither, and concludes with a flurry of detached notes reminiscent of similar passages in early German sonatas. In contrast, he chants a hypnotic mantra in the repeated notes accompanying the Andante’s flowing melody. In the final Allegro, he hardly suggests, before the second section, that movement’s virtuosity with its Biber-like 32nd notes, many of which Holloway takes detached. Perhaps because of this flamboyant virtuosity at the movement’s end or because of the section’s extended cadential drive, Holloway doesn’t repeat the second section.


Holloway plays briskly in the Allemande of the Partita in D Minor, although he breaks the long lines into fragments separated by pregnant pauses in the Corrente, which he takes quickly. In the repeat, he arpeggiates the penultimate chord with stunning effect in one of the internal cadences. In the Gigue, he retards the tempo occasionally, producing a somewhat quirky reading that’s anything but straightforward. In the Ciaconna, he preserves lots of detached notes that give the piece a jaunty snap, especially at his bracing tempo. In the end, with imaginative and what sound like spontaneous arpeggiations of chords usually played in blocks, the Chaconne reveals even more of its depth and breadth than usual.


In the Adagio of the Sonata in C Major, Holloway’s adherence to Bach’s manuscript produces at least one surprise, like the figuration surrounding the first cadence in G Minor, a cadence that represents something of a surprise in itself. If he hadn’t been careful, the steady succession of separate notes in the opening of the Fuga—as elsewhere in the movement—might lead to monotony, but Holloway has firm enough control to prevent, although sometimes barely, a deadening sense of regularity; and the appearance of the theme over pedals, first D then G, sounds simply overwhelming. Adherence to Bach’s bowings could break the Largo’s flow, but again Holloway saves the continuity. The Allegro assai has been played separately from the Sonata as an encore. Galamian had remained as faithful as he could to the manuscript in the bowings he suggested. Holloway, too, demonstrates just how effective such fidelity—creatively tempered to preserve the spirit while occasionally violating the letter—can be in this stunning movement.


Bright in the Preludio of the Partita in E Major, Holloway fashions a tangy dance from the succeeding Loure’s separate dotted notes. The famous Gavotte en rondeau benefits from his light, thoughtful approach. In the Minuet II, he introduces bowings of his own that sharpen the dance-like rhythm, and he brings an infectious energy to the Bourre and Gigue.


For those who have endured enough aggressively slashing solo Bach, Holloway, in warmly present and majestically reverberant recorded sound, provides a thoughtful, authoritative alternative. (He takes generally fewer rhythmic liberties than does Lucy van Dael, whose readings on Naxos 8.554422 and 8.554423 David K. Nelson recommended in 23: 1—despite heavy breathing that apparently disturbs me more than it did him; and gives less impression, perhaps of solidity than did Rachel Podger on Channel Classics 2498, the first volume of which David reviewed in 23:2—which also had its share of extraneous noise.) Holloway’s combination of fidelity and imagination in the Chaconne permeates the entire set. Strongly recommended.


FANFARE: Robert Maxham
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Works on This Recording

1. Sonata for Violin solo no 1 in G minor, BWV 1001 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  John Holloway (Violin)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
Venue:  St. Gerold Monastery, Austria 
Length: 15 Minutes 40 Secs. 
Notes: St. Gerold Monastery, Austria (07/2004 - 09/2004) 
2. Sonata for Violin solo no 2 in A minor, BWV 1003 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  John Holloway (Violin)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
Venue:  St. Gerold Monastery, Austria 
Length: 21 Minutes 0 Secs. 
Notes: St. Gerold Monastery, Austria (07/2006 - 09/2006) 
3. Sonata for Violin solo no 3 in C major, BWV 1005 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  John Holloway (Violin)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
Venue:  St. Gerold Monastery, Austria 
Length: 22 Minutes 49 Secs. 
Notes: St. Gerold Monastery, Austria (07/2006 - 09/2006) 
4. Partita for Violin solo no 1 in B minor, BWV 1002 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  John Holloway (Violin)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
Venue:  St. Gerold Monastery, Austria 
Length: 27 Minutes 36 Secs. 
Notes: St. Gerold Monastery, Austria (07/2006 - 09/2006) 
5. Partita for Violin solo no 2 in D minor, BWV 1004 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  John Holloway (Violin)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
Venue:  St. Gerold Monastery, Austria 
Length: 27 Minutes 36 Secs. 
Notes: St. Gerold Monastery, Austria (07/2009 - 09/2006) 
6. Partita for Violin solo no 3 in E major, BWV 1006 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  John Holloway (Violin)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
Venue:  St. Gerold Monastery, Austria 
Length: 17 Minutes 11 Secs. 
Notes: St. Gerold Monastery, Austria (07/2009 - 09/2006) 

Sound Samples

Sonata for Violin Solo No.1 in G minor, BWV 1001: 1. Adagio
Sonata for Violin Solo No.1 in G minor, BWV 1001: 2. Fuga (Allegro)
Sonata for Violin Solo No.1 in G minor, BWV 1001: 3. Siciliana
Sonata for Violin Solo No.1 in G minor, BWV 1001: 4. Presto
Partita for Violin Solo No.1 in B minor, BWV 1002: Allemanda
Partita for Violin Solo No.1 in B minor, BWV 1002: Double
Partita for Violin Solo No.1 in B minor, BWV 1002: Corrente
Partita for Violin Solo No.1 in B minor, BWV 1002: Double. Presto
Partita for Violin Solo No.1 in B minor, BWV 1002: Sarabande
Partita for Violin Solo No.1 in B minor, BWV 1002: Double
Partita for Violin Solo No.1 in B minor, BWV 1002: Tempo di Borea
Partita for Violin Solo No.1 in B minor, BWV 1002: Double
Sonata for Violin Solo No.2 in A minor, BWV 1003: 1. Grave
Sonata for Violin Solo No.2 in A minor, BWV 1003: 2. Fuga
Sonata for Violin Solo No.2 in A minor, BWV 1003: 3. Andante
Sonata for Violin Solo No.2 in A minor, BWV 1003: 4. Allegro
Partita for Violin Solo No.2 in D minor, BWV 1004: 1. Allemande
Partita for Violin Solo No.2 in D minor, BWV 1004: 2. Corrente
Partita for Violin Solo No.2 in D minor, BWV 1004: 3. Sarabande
Partita for Violin Solo No.2 in D minor, BWV 1004: 4. Giga
Partita for Violin Solo No.2 in D minor, BWV 1004: 5. Ciaccona
Sonata for Violin Solo No.3 in C, BWV 1005: 1. Adagio
Sonata for Violin Solo No.3 in C, BWV 1005: 2. Fuga
Sonata for Violin Solo No.3 in C, BWV 1005: 3. Largo
Sonata for Violin Solo No.3 in C, BWV 1005: 4. Allegro assai
Partita for Violin Solo No.3 in E, BWV 1006: 1. Preludio
Partita for Violin Solo No.3 in E, BWV 1006: 2. Loure
Partita for Violin Solo No.3 in E, BWV 1006: 3. Gavotte en Rondeau
Partita for Violin Solo No.3 in E, BWV 1006: 4a. Minuet I
Partita for Violin Solo No.3 in E, BWV 1006: 4b. Menuet II [- Menuet I da capo]
Partita for Violin Solo No.3 in E, BWV 1006: 5. Bourrée
Partita for Violin Solo No.3 in E, BWV 1006: 6. Gigue

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