This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
Felix Ayo is a name I associate with Vivaldi more than with Bach. In fact he was a founder member of the Italian ensemble, I Musici, and was its leader for several years. I have always thought him a fine violinist technically in point of phrasing and in general musical accomplishment. Until now, though, I have not had a chance to hear him in more substantial repertoire than that which he no doubt felt he needed to break away from. In general I found very much to enjoy in his performances of these technically and intellectually demanding sonatas and partitas; certainly his journeyman's period with Vivaldi has stood him in good stead in several respects.
In Bach's autograph copy of the unaccompanied violin music, dating from
1720, each Sonata is followed by a Partita; the main distinctions between the two being that the Sonatas fall into the da chiesa mould and therefore exclude dance movements, whilst the Partitas, more in da camera style, consist of a sequence of well contrasted and stylized dances. Furthermore, the Partitas keep more or less within the same key from one movement to another, whilst the Sonatas in each case make use of two keys, one for the outer movements and another for the central slow movements.
Ayo's intonation is excellent and so, for the most part, is his phrasing and his overall conception of the music. What I particularly liked about his playing though, was the absence of any intrusive mannerisms which can be the downfall of many a more celebrated virtuoso. Ayo approaches the music directly and allows as little as possible to come between him and the unencumbered execution of the music. I must admit that I was taken by surprise at the sheer effect which his simplicity of expression sometimes had upon me. There was a tendency to be a little prosaic here and there and some people will miss that richness of tone which is the preserve of the greatest virtuosi. I have listened to Josef Suk on HMV and to Henryk Szerying (DG) playing the same music and I prefer this new set to either of them. Szerying's rhythms and general approach seem to me too unyielding and Suk's intonation leaves much to be desired. Sandor Vegh struck me as too self-indulgent in his recordings of the same works (Telefunken). The most effective examples of Ayo's playing occur in the pathos-laden Adagio which leads into that monumental fugue with its quotation from the antiphon Veni Sancte Spiritus ("Come Holy Ghost"), in the finale to the same Sonata (No. 3 in C), and throughout the G minor Sonata and the E major Partita. Occasionally, in pursuit of accuracy, the double-stopping assumes a momentary ugliness but this does little to interrupt a well considered and sensitively interpreted performance of literature which must surely be the aspiration of all violinists.
-- Gramophone [3/1980]
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