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Notes and Editorial Reviews
Nearly 40 years on, Grumiaux's Bach still manages to sound fresh-minted and true
Once heard, Arthur Grumiaux's noble solo Bach recordings will take up permanent residency in your musical memory, less on account of their brilliance (though the Third Partita offers plenty of that) than their probing musicality. The two biggest challenges are the D minor Partita's Chaconne and the C major Sonata's Fugue. Both bear witness to unflinching concentration, a keen responsiveness to formal argument (especially in the Fugue) and an ability to cross the strings without excessive 'scrunching', something that not even Heifetz always avoids. Grumiaux respects the music's dance origins, even in the sonatas, where (for example) the G
minor's Siciliano skips as well as sings. He is master both of legato and detached bowing (compare the Double and Courante of the First Partita) and his warm, finely controlled vibrato - which is fairly fast though never intrusive - helps define a restrained but affecting musical personality. If you need a representative sampling of Grumiaux's poise and profundity, try the largo from the Third Sonata.
The sound in this transfer is a good deal better focused than on the various LP and CD editions that I've owned over the years, less obtrusively resonant and with a far sharper solo profile. And while most other sets of the Sonatas and Partitas fall short of a fill-up, Philips offers supple and tonally seductive 1963 accounts of the two violin and clavier sonatas, BWV1016 and BWV1017 - musically immaculate and object lessons in seamless tonal projection. True, those readers who are wedded to the principle of period performance will cast them aside as anachronistic, but those who aren't, or who prefer to keep an open mind on such matters, can't fail to be enchanted.
Rivals in the unaccompanied works are far too plentiful to catalogue in detail. As to the 'late and greats', Joseph Szigeti (Vanguard nla) is technically a lot less secure than Grumiaux, but his unique interpretative insights cannot be passed over lightly. Heifetz projects more overall intensity, and his account of the A minor Sonata remains unrivalled (especially the Andante) but Grumiaux is a princely player who, while rarely wearing his heart on his sleeve, invests each of these magnificent pieces with style and a wealth of feeling. Whatever versions of the Sonatas and Partitas you choose to own, this set simply has to be one of them. Fingers crossed that its release signals the systematic domestic reissue of Grumiaux's magnificent Philips legacy in toto.
-- Rob Cowan, Gramophone [10/2001, reviewing a previous reissue]
Works on This Recording
Average Customer Review: ( 2 Customer Reviews )
Incredible Experience February 9, 2013
By Wendy B. (New York, NY) See All My Reviews
"There is something about unaccompanied Bach string that, when well played, can absolutely knock my socks off. I have long enjoyed Rostropovich's Bach Suites for the seamless playing and I ws looking for the same for the violin Sonatas and Partitas. I have found it! The quality that is shared is the sense of seamless suspension, with phrases melting into one another in a breathless way. This quality, achievable by strings and, to some extent, piano, is what I look for in Bach recording os such music. I also own the Casals Cello Suites, and , while i love them, they do not seem to share this quality. I suppose it is a matter of personal tste. The Grumiaux is just what the doctor ordered in wonderful, firm, authoritative playing that seems to float suspended with taking a breath. In other Bach works I may look for other things, but the solo strings , for me, need this quality, which causes me to feel rather like I was floating above it all, suspended in air. I recommend this recording highly"
Grumiaux or Szeying? September 25, 2012
By Tamas Fenyvesi (Budapest, Hungary) See All My Reviews
"It would be absolutely pretentious to answer the question I put in my title of this review.I am just an example that one can enjoy this pinnacle of violin music as an amateur listener. The Szeryng ( Deutsche Gramophon) is one of my favourite in my disc collection.Now I am at loss,and I try to listen to both several times to decide. This Grumiaux is absolutely great, you feel the force of the most fantastic baroque music.I attempted to have it on as a background while working but it is impossible. You forget about everything else while this violin finds its way to your heart. Thank you for the swift delivery of my orders."