Mark Kaplan – Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin
It’s a decidedly crowded field. I did a quick check and found over 180 different recordings of Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin. Because of the rich possibilities of the music — and the fact that it’s for one performer — these pieces have become works that every serious violinist wants to record. They present rare opportunities for performers to fully express themselves unfiltered through the music.
So why should you listen to Mark Kaplan’s version as opposed to any of those other 180+ recordings?
In this case, I think the liner notes make the difference. Kaplan writes thoughtful essays not just about each sonata and partita, but about higher concepts surrounding these works. Kaplan goes into detail explaining the significance of these works for him (and why he’s recording them again after twenty years). Kaplan also looks at the relationship between musician and audience, historical vs. modern practices, and more.
He writes, “there is some basic kernel of what we might call ‘the music itself’ that shines through, no matter how we play it — as long as we approach it with respect and love, with dedication and patience.”
While Kaplan’s performances stand on their own merits, his writing gives the listener additional insight into his interpretations. For me, his liner notes added to my appreciation of those performances.
So what do those performances sound like? Bridge’s close-mic recording isn’t too close — there’s a slightly resonant ambiance that frames the sound nicely. Kaplan’s playing is precise without being fussy.
When I initially listened to this recording, I thought this was a good technical recording of these works. After I read the liner notes, I began to hear the more subtle nuances of Kaplan’s interpretations, which deepened my appreciation of them.
Kaplan has a clear vision of the structure of each movement, and he seems to understand the role of every note within that structure. The music sounds cohesive and expressive. The intellectual nature of the construction (such as the fugues in the sonatas) seem to just vanish into the background. The music seems to just flow naturally.
I’m not going to suggest that this is the only recording of the Bach solo sonatas and partitas you should own. But for me, it’s definitely one of the top ten.
Johann Sebastian Bach: The Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin, BWV 1001-1006
Mark Kaplan, violin
2 CD set