Notes and Editorial Reviews
: Violin Sonata No. 2 in A;
Aria in forma di Sonatina
No. 14 in g.
Violin Sonata No. 2 in a. Solo Violin Suite No. 5 in d.
Solo Violin Partita No. 2 in d
Uta Pape (vn); Klaus Mader (thb); Olaf Reimers (vc); Wolf-Eckart Dietrich (hpd) (period instruments)
ARS 38126 (SACD: 61:52)
Violinist Uta Pape and her ensemble have assembled a collection of early works for the instrument by the North German Johann Jacob Walther and the Central German Johann Paul von Westhoff, including as well Bach’s Second Partita, not so coincidentally demonstrating the influence of the German school of violin playing on Bach’s style. Her booklet notes—and those of Greta Haenen as well—also mention the third of the triumvirate of early German violinist-composers, Heinrich Biber, an Austrian whose sonatas and
for solo violin have also been frequently mentioned as predecessors of Bach’s works.
The program opens with a sprightly Sonata from Walther’s collection
, consisting of five brief movements, the titles of which (Preludio, Allemanda, Sarabanda, Giga, and Finale) suggest the dance suite or at least the
sonata da camera
. If Walther’s music hasn’t achieved the currency of Biber’s in recent decades, his style should be familiar at once: an advanced technique, frequent ground basses, and frequent sets of variations. The following
, drawn from the same collection, stretches the variations over a theme the notes identify as 18 measures in length. Uta Pape produces from her 1731 Pancratius Reber violin a tone that’s slender and occasionally somewhat nasal, though she wields it like a scalpel, bringing these pieces to life with energy and wit. In Westhoff’s five-movement Sonata, the ensemble joins in the second movement’s effervescent merry-making to exhilarating effect, which continues well into the next movement’s pizzicato imitation of a lute, prefiguring the many later symphonic movements by 19th-century composers, while the following Aria showcases Pape’s and the ensemble’s ability to wring the sensibility from a plaintive line. In the finale, they rush ahead with the gusty headlong energy of Antonio Vivaldi’s
La Tempesta di mare
. The Suite for solo violin that follows bears a strong resemblance to Bach’s solo Partitas, like them comprising dance movements (in this case, the standard Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, and Gigue) but also resembling them in the way in which the violin weaves solo threads into chordal tapestries (although in this case, the concluding Gigue features as many double-stops as do the earlier movements, while Bach usually let the violin run swiftly in single lines in this concluding dance). Pape’s performance of this suite endows it with the same majesty and seriousness of purpose usually associated with Bach’s monumental compositions.
The program concludes with Bach’s Partita No. 2, with Pape endowing the first movement with a rhythmic freedom by dicing the lines into smaller segments rather than gluing them all together in a single strand. But adopting a brisk tempo allows her to take a more synoptic vision of the movement nonetheless, and she further enhances the sense of forward motion by adding very discrete ornaments that seem to speed things along. She’s similarly lively in the Corrente; but she plays the Sarabanda with a poignancy surprising in view of the fact that she never relaxes the tempo to achieve it. In the Giga, her
flash iridescently, though her tone remains firm—and the passagework controlled—throughout. Looking at the booklet, listeners shouldn’t be surprised to find that her reading of the Chaconne takes only 12:19, one of the fastest I’ve encountered (even faster than Isabelle Faust (12:28) on Harmonia Mundi 902059,
34:2). Yet it doesn’t seem that she’s done more to save the extra few seconds beyond editing silence from between notes and phrases; at least, she doesn’t give any sense of undue speed—and when volleys of rapid single notes in her performance fly, they recall with especial vividness similar patterns in Biber’s compositions. The first barrages of arpeggios do come with almost unexampled fleetness, but they’re buoyed by a feather-light bow stroke that blends technical lightness with musical weight.
Pape’s program, recorded in a reverberant ambiance that lends extra warmth to her tone, might at first blush appear to be a quasi-academic demonstration; but it far transcends the limited appeal such a purpose might suggest in the lively intelligence of its execution. Pape’s Chaconne, helium-filled and momentous at the same time, ensures the release’s general interest, while any academic interest’s just gravy. Strongly recommended across the board.
FANFARE: Robert Maxham
Works on This Recording
Sonata for violin & continuo No. 2 in A minor by Johann Paul von Westhoff
Wolf-Eckart Dietrich (Harpsichord),
Olaf Reimers (Cello),
Uta Pape (Violin),
Klaus Mader (Theorbo)
Venue: Immanuelskirche Wuppertal
Length: 9 Minutes 35 Secs.
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