Thursday, 1 February 2018

Bach and Arthur Grumiaux

Two hours of J.S. Bach played by Arthur Grumiaux on an old Philips double CD (probably obtainable now only to those who seek it out in Japan; the Japanese have a commendable respect for fine violin playing). Grumiaux's suave, sophisticated, elegant style of playing suits Bach's music remarkably well, and he has an instinctive feeling for phrasing in Bach's music. The CDs contain eleven sonatas for violin and keyboard: the familiar six, plus five others (at least one of which does not sound too much like J.S. Bach, to my finely-attuned ears). This set has languished on my shelves un-listened to for many years, mainly because the “keyboard” Grumiaux has selected is a harpsichord, an instrument whose jingles and jangles I try to avoid. Not that I need to worry too much in this set; the violin is balanced well forward, so the fairly resonant harpsichord jangles less than is often the case, and the overall sound is warm, with the harpsichord making agreeable background noises from time to time. Great listening for those who love the music of Bach, the playing of Arthur Grumiaux, and the sound of the violin.

The only slight niggle is that, for the six well-known sonatas for violin and keyboard, one also needs to-hand the set played by Frank Peter Zimmermann, with Enrico Pace providing the keyboard part on the piano. The Bach sonatas favour the violin, but the keyboard is often not just a continuo part. With Zimmermann and Pace you get both voices; with Grumiaux, you get mainly the voice of the violin. Perhaps, in some after-life, we shall have Arthur Grumiaux playing these works with Enrico Pace.

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