Bach Ciaccona Recordings
Violinists: Recordings and Performances: I am learning Bach Ciaccona from Partita No. 2, and I was wondering if anyone would tell me which recording of the piece they prefer over others, and why you prefer it.
From Josh Hunton
Posted August 16, 2004 at 05:29 AM
I am learning Bach Ciaccona from Partita No. 2, and I was wondering if anyone would tell me which recording of the piece they prefer over others.
My favorite recording of the Bach chaconne has always been Menuhin's, even when compared to Milstein's, Szeryng's, etc. His tone may not be as pure as theirs, but I find he plays the piece more musically. It seems he always knows what lines to emphasize, bringing out the natural climaxes in the piece. The overwhelming sadness he finds, especially at the end, is truly remarkable. Next to his recording someone like Hahn sounds like she is playing an etude.
If you don't mind about the soud quality, try Enescu's recording.
Milstein, Heifez, Enescu, Grumiux, Julian Sitkovetsky, Nina Beilina, Menuhin (in no particular order).
From Adam Smith
Posted on August 16, 2004 at 12:49 PM
Heifetz's Bach isn't very good...its all in tune...but no musicality...just speed
I think Rachel Podger's recording are the best ever done. I've heard several and think that for sheer technical artistry and emotional impact she can't be beat.
From Kelsey Z.
Posted on August 16, 2004 at 02:49 PM
Ehnes, Gruimiaux. I think the "best" Bach recording depends on the person and style approach you like for the Sonata's and Partitas. Szeryng can play them really really well, but I don't like his stylistic approach very much.
The Art of Violin concludes with Menuhin playing the Bach--I think you would enjoy watching that.
I have Julian Sitkovetsky, Kogan, Milstein and Heifetz on the Bach Chaconne. They're all wonderful, so that I can't decide which I like best. Possibly Heifetz, in spite of what others say about his Bach!
From Anton Dam
Posted on August 18, 2004 at 03:38 AM
I'm surprised no one mentioned Szigeti, the most individual recording I have ever heard.
Well I agree that Enescu is remarkable, full of understanding, but not interested in technique.
I am surprised that nobedy mentioned the giant Adolf Busch, who left us a monumental recording of the Chaconne.
I favor Milstein's recording on Capitol.
From Ben Wolf
Posted on August 23, 2004 at 12:10 AM
I also am playing this piece and have the Perlman and Segia Luca recordings. Perlman has beautiful tone but I prefer Luca's version. I haven't seen his name mentioned here but it really is a beautiful version lots of expression and phrasing while less vibrato than Perlman.
On a different note; I'm a classical guitarist (also play viola/violin) who's done the chaconne. For a different approach you could try John William's version in "virtuoso variations for guitar". It is brilliant and almost exactly the same as the original. This version can give you new ideas and a broader understanding of the piece. Segovia is also great to hear but you could say it is more "segovia" than "bach" (musical genius that he may be...). In fact, I would say get your hands on as many different recordings of it as possible: violinists, guitarists even pianists- because then you can choose which interpretations you or dont like. All great players have something unique to give to the chaconne.
My teacher and I just hate the Luca recording, no offense. I guess it has a much more Baroque sound to it. For playing Bach on a Baroque violin, I think that recording is great, but I like the modern violin recordings more. The Hilary Hahn recording is my favorite so far.
I just recored the bach chaconne on my new cd that was released last month.
the other pieces on the cd are the nilesen and elgar concertos.
So you prefer the Williams recording made on the Fleta guitar to his later one made on a Smallman? (I prefer the earlier one myself, but the later one is pretty good too, if you can stand the sound of the Smallman.) Overall on guitar, though, there's a very early recording made by Andres Segovia which is my favorite. The sound is terrible (it's either 1927 or 1940's), but he plays with great verve without rushing (time 12:43 or so). Eliot Fisk just goes too fast. Goran Sollscher is pretty good, of you can find him.
On violin, I prefer Milstein or Wanda Wilkomirska.
I love the Segovia one that you're talking about, but you just have to suspend all you know about baroque playing- his arrangement changes the piece so much!!! Though if I could play like that I don't think I'd care what people said about my interpretation...
I find it interesting that you like the Smallman recording more. I think that William's earlier recordings have more spirit and energy. What do you think about what he does to the last line in the '87 recording?
Sorry- this is a violin forum (heh, heh) ... but it's interesting. Has anyone played it on both guitar and violin?
I've played it on both. Actully on Guitar way before I even attempted it on violin :)
It is interesting that many of the "purists" I've asked about their favorite Bach interpreter have Listed Segovia.
And I agree that it is amazing to listen to him!
There is never just notes, it is always music.
When Segovia played this arrangement for the first time in Stockholm, both Kreisler and Heifetz was in the audience :)
It´s very difficult for me to choose a recording better than the others. About earlier recordings, both Szigeti and Enescu´s are sensational. Then, Milstein, Francescatti, Menuhin, Szeryng and other historical players made excellent recordings from this work. But my favourite are,possibly, Grumiaux´s recording. But I´m very sad, because great violinists like Oistrakh, Stern and Ferras never recorded this work. Does anybody know if there is any live performance from the Bach Chaconne by them?
You mean the decorative figure right before the final statement of the theme?
I rather thought it fitted the overall manner of Williams performance, emphasizing - well, forget the bathos. I just thought it fit.
I don't play guitar, but my mom likes it, and I grew up in a family where my father played folk guitar, and my two brothers played classical, so I've heard a lot of it.
Further, Claire, I'm forever biased because I came to know the Chaconne through the Segovia recording - I never heard it on the violin until three or four years later! It's much the same story with Bach I now play on the violin - I heard it first in a guitar recording.
Perhaps that accounts for the somewhat percussive quality of my playing... :)
hilary hanh's recording is good
From misfit Kim
Posted on October 4, 2004 at 05:45 AM
I think nobody can say which is superior to others.
My favorite is...
1. Milstein (DG)
2. Kremer ('Violin Plyer' version)
3. Kantorow (Denon)
I'm Italian, and I apologize for my English. I only heard two versions of Ciaccona for violin, by Kremer and by Heifez. Despite a "cruel" rec. mike too near the instrument, I prefer so far the Kremer one. The Heifez one sounds to me excessively "sweet" and bizzarre in tempo changes... I should like to hear to other versions, as Milstein-Grumiaux-Szigeti and others. Any chance to find Mp3 editions in some website? Another question concerning the Ciaccona sonata for piano: anybody knows some (good) recent performance after the old Benedetti Michelangeli ones ?
Ricardo, you can hear the first minute or so of many if not most versions in print by searching Amazon.
I think the best version is by Rebekah Johnson. I haven't heard it yet, but I have high hopes.
Thanks Kelsey Z: "I think the "best" Bach recording depends on the person and style approach you like for the Sonata's and Partitas."
Lara "Hello, I'm Topless" St. John's recording is fantastic. I highly recommend getting over the cover pic and actually listening. My reasons: the clarity of the different voices, plus I feel she has a strong idea of the "cathedral architecture" of the piece and also relishes the challenges of playing the damn thing.
(I am curious about Tetzlaff and Mintz, and Mullova-has she recorded it?)
There are so many fine recordings made of these great pieces! Both Szeryng and Milstein made two separate sets of recordings, and in particular the CBS recording by Szeryng is wonderful. My personal favourite is Arthur Grumiaux, who plays with great sensitivity, amazing vibrato and musicality.
So many violinists (some great ones also) play this music like it is a series of etudes, having nothing to say as such.
Among contemporary violinists James Ehnes recorded the cycle on Anelektra. Organ like chords, beautiful sound inspite of the technical difficulties, it is a great recording.
Riccardo - Pletnev made a very good recording of the Bach-Busoni Chaccone; it's on his Live From Carnegie Hall disc.
Yes, Mullova has recorded the D minor back in the early 90's I think. If I remember correctly it's on a disc with the Bartok solo sonata.
As for Bach, well it depends on tastes. If you prefer the early music movement versions or not. I think that there are a lot of great versions. Best to hear them all and then choose your own way. One great set is by Gérard Poulet the French violinist. Ridiculously clean, and very beautiful and interesting.
This Mullova recording was the first she did since reviewing her technique and it is a truly marvelous recording.
I have a couple of live versions (more recent) with her to and I hope that she will put the entire thing on CD!
From Scott 68
Posted on January 14, 2005 at 02:49 PM
From Josh W.
Posted on January 14, 2005 at 03:05 PM
Menuhin's recording of it is spectacular. It was made when he was 18 which all the more astounding. I actually prefer though the live video that is on the end of the Art of the VIolin video. It will leave you speechless/breathless.
From Violin T
Posted on January 14, 2005 at 03:17 PM
For the Bach/Busoni (piano version) Chaconne Artur Rubinstein is wonderful!
I love the interpretation Menuhin plays at the end of the "The Art of Violin" video.
It's from Gstaad 1972. I must have this on CD, has anyone an idea how to get it or knows more about that recording???
Besides this I really like Hilary Hahn's recording of the Partitas/Sonatas and especially the Chaconne.
Haven't checked out Milsteins 1973 recording yet (which is supposed to be great), but am going to soon.
From Mark L
Posted on January 22, 2005 at 02:57 AM
Shlomo Mintz' Ciaccona is heartbreakingly beautiful and technically perfect.
Szeryng and Grumiaux are excellent too, but nobody hits that climactic moment with as much awe-inspiring power as Mintz. Not to say he romanticizes it, because he doesn't.
Inspired by this question, I spent a few hours at amazon.com saving the first 60 seconds of 15 different versions. Then I had my sister come over and sit with a blank piece of paper and 15 lines, rating each recording while I played it from my computer. She was surprised at her reactions; my brother will be next. This is a really fun and broadening experience ... try it!
My favorite would have been Shumsky, had I not been sitting on the edge of my seat constantly cringing and waiting for the next wrong note. In my book, Suk is tops, although so many of these recordings are wonderful. If anyone wants a copy of my little collection of .htm files, I will be happy to email it to you (Busch, Enescu, Grumiaux, Heifetz, Kremer, Menuhin, Milstein, Mintz, Perlman, Poulet, Shumsky, Suk, Szeryng, Szigeti, and Zehetmair).
When it comes to Bach, Milstein is my favorite. However, in the case of the Ciaccona, I have grown to like Hilary Hahn's recording the best.
My favorite one is Hilary Hahn's.
Simply put: Perfect.
Also the Menuhin one he played in Gstaad 1972. He plays with more emotion, a little bit faster and it "flows" better. But like on most Menuhin recordings, you can hear little flaws and imprecisenesses. (doesn't bother me though)
I don't like Menuhins recording from the 50s, but I was told that his first recording of the Bach is very similar to the 1972 one.
From Chris Meyer
Posted on February 15, 2008 at 12:57 AM
Is the G minor fuge harder to play technically than the Chaccone?
From Brian Hong
Posted on February 15, 2008 at 02:06 AM
C'mon, people! Perlman's Chaconne has been mentioned like twice! What do you guys think of that?
From Mara Gerety
Posted on February 15, 2008 at 02:49 AM
Chris--I wouldn't say so, in large part because the Chaconne is about five times longer and has much more variation in it. The Fugue is tricky but once you get the hang of it it's pretty straightforward.
As for recordings, I still haven't found the Ideal Bach Recording. For the Chaconne my personal favorite is Szigeti, just for the sheer musical profundity, but it must be admitted that Mr. Szigeti's technique is pretty sloppy on that recording (he was old).
From Chris Meyer
Posted on February 15, 2008 at 04:13 AM
^hmm, well whenever I try to perform the fuge, my left hand feels like it's about to fall off... it's so complex
From Mara Gerety
Posted on February 15, 2008 at 04:32 AM
And whenever I try to play the Chaconne, my brain feels like it's about to fall off.
Regarding your left hand in the fugue, you may have the common problem (it's afflicted me, that's for sure) of holding the neck of the violin in a death grip while reaching for chords. I often wonder if it isn't a sort of "psychosomatic" reaction to panic about difficult polyphonic writing? Anyway, don't do that, panic=tension=death.
Also make sure you aren't angling your left thumb too far backwards. That's another common mistake when playing chords, it does nothing except to create tension in the hand and limit its reach and flexibility. (Same goes for sticking your wrist out when stretching for a 4th finger, etc.) The left hand must always be as relaxed, balanced and efficient as possible. If something hurts, chances are you're doing something wrong.
From Chris Meyer
Posted on February 15, 2008 at 04:46 AM
how hard's the C major fugue in comparison to chaccone and G minor fugue?
From Mara Gerety
Posted on February 15, 2008 at 05:33 AM
You and your comparisons! There are different difficulties inherent in each! Having not yet learned the C major, however, I don't feel qualified to offer an explanation of its particular pitfalls because...um, I don't really know what they are.
Search out Bronislav Gimpel's Chaconne on Dover records. It is the most intense performance you will ever hear - goosebumps every time.
Gidon Kremer. The second recording (2005). Simply amazing from one end to the other. Dynamics, tempo, ... It does not sound like somebody climbing Everest (even though he himself uses the analogy), it sounds like somebody painting Everest.
Certainly not a "classical" interpretation by any stretch of the imagination. Some may reject this as too far out. But certainly goes to show that Bach's piece left a lot of room to the interpret to breathe into the music.
Ah, the Chaconne thread revived! I've said this elsewhere - the best performance I've ever heard was live, Nathan Milstein's last public performance in Chicago when he was 80. Better than any recordings I've ever heard (including his own). The technical mastery was still there, at a sublime level. I don't know any other way to put this, but there were moments when the violin's voice and the music merged, and you felt that you were listening to the voice of Bach. As a life-long listener to violinists, I have never heard anything like it, before or since, live or on recordings.
PS. One of the other pieces on the program was Paganiniana. At 80, Milstein still had it.
Another can of worms opened.
I enjoy reading everyone's preferences but it seems the most important thing to do is to try to get as many different recordings as possible and judge for yourself. There is something to learned from every great violinists' interpretation. Bach tastes change over time. Gidon Kremer is very fun though.
My personal fave: JAAP SCHROEDER
From Brian Hong
Posted on February 28, 2008 at 09:41 PM
Marina, have you read Jaap Schroder's book about performing and interpreting the Sonatas and Partitas? It is really fascinating, well worth picking up if you've not done so already.
I disagree about Heifetz's being unmusical -- it's silly romantic, but I do love the variety of character he gives to each little section.
Sander, (or anyone else that may know) is the Milstein version you speak of (80 years old) in circulation? Might you know where to purchase, listen, or view it? Thank you :)
Christopher: I saw it live; I don't think it was recorded. However, I think there is a DVD of him playing the Bach at about the same time (maybe a year or so later). Haven't heard that one yet.
Manuel B. Jimenez,
There is a DVD from Video Artists International, Inc. (VAI Number 4368) where Isaac Stern plays the Bach Chaconne. You will love it ! Stern recorded it when he was young and he himself makes the presentation of this magnificent work of art. I think his Chaconne is Isaac Stern at his best, and the way he plays it is comparable to Milstein's, I believe.
My favourite chaconne is by PERLMAN of course !!!
Not too fast like Heifetz does, not too slow like Hahn does...
For me Perlman plays the PERFECT chaconne..
I have listened many performances of it but nothing can touch my soul as Perlmans..expressive, colourfull, nostalgic, with such a dose of passion..
Hilary Hahn is very good too especially for someone who is learning chaconne..it sounds slowly and clearly (you can hear every notes) and very expressive too..
My favourite variation in chaconne is the arpeggios one.. i love the performances that the arpegios have a "rolling effect" (like in hahn's) and not "sloppy" like many do..
i also like hilary hahn`s recording very much, for the same reasons as you, Mihail.
has anyone here listened to janine jansen`s? it`s rather fast, but very expressive. unfortunately, she makes some mistakes in the voice leading (2nd variation). i like both of these recordings, although they´re really different. and i`d say i prefer hilary hahn`s.
I would say stick with the oldies: either Milstein or Menuhin. Hilary Hahn's recordings are good, but there is no comparison between her and say, Menuhin.
well, that`s certainly a question of personnal opinion. for my taste it`s hilary hahn, because of her great tension all over the piece, and because of her amazing accuracy.
My top honors would go to Gregory Fulkerson. His Ciaccona is massive; pipe organ like in scale. He gives each variation its own character, more so then any other violinist I know of, through sound color, and some flexibility in tempo.
Hilary Hahn's recording I would also highly recommend. Ultra clean in execution though not nearly as an individualistic interpretation as that of Fulkersons.
His rendition is to me well played-makes structural sense, as well as having a constant feeling of movement (without rushing).
Rachel Podger, Please! Next in line is Milstein (sorry for the rhyme).
Arthur Grumiaux. In fact, I think all his Bach is the best I've heard.
From Daniel Long
Posted on February 20, 2009 at 09:35 PM
I'm glad someone mentioned Gregory Fulkerson, because I believe he has put forth a marvelous interpretation. Szeryng will always be the standard for me, but when I heard Fulkerson I immediately placed him up at the top of my list. The tone that he gets out of the instrument is incredible. His chords and double-stops resonate and speak so clearly, unlike some recordings where it simply comes across as scratchy with the bow digging into the string too much.
While I have Milstein's, Grumiaux's, Heifetz, and Fischer's recordings of Bach, I place Fulkerson and Szeryng up at the top.
My own - he said in a burst of unseemly self-promotion! Actually, for me, Bach is the Shakepeare of music. And the Chaconne is like Hamlet and King Lear put together. There are many wonderful interpretations, and no single one can be completely definitive - which is as it should be.
I prefer the version of Vasco Abadjiev, which is on you tube and on second place Milstein. Realy in this time Vasco was only on 28 .
Only to add the words of the great David Oistrah : Moscow, June, 1974: Without doubt Vasco Abadjiev is the most genial performer of Bach of our time.
its a pity he`s dead. I can`t ask him what he meant by the word `genial`.
I just finished reading 'Violin Dreams' by Arnold Steinhardt- Marvelous book- He calls Bach's Chaconne "the holy grail for the solo violin" and has an extensive discussion about his struggles at interpreting its meaning and playing it. The discussion of the Chaconne runs through the whole book. Good read!
I forgot to say the most important: The book includes a CD with 2 different versions of the Partita No. 2- one recorded in 1966 and the other 40 years later in 2006- both with Steinhardt-
What... the Chaconne on *violin*?!
OK, this takes a lot of nerve, posting my own viola recording to a violin site, but here goes:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XsDr15D3VnY&feature=related (part one)
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y3qPvw6r360&feature=related (part two)
Scott (running for cover)
PS I've also heard the chaconne on cello and bass (gasp). So it's not only violists who are a little jealous of your repertoire.
I have Henryk Syzeryng.
No need to run. Not from me, in any case. I thoroughly enjoyed your performance. It sounds somehow more relaxed than on a violin, just like the lute version of the G minor fugue. Thanks for putting it on Youtube.
Apart from you, I also like the interpretations of Wolfgang Schneiderhan (my first acquaintance wth the piece; for its clarity and beauty of tone), Henryk Szeryng (superb technique in the service of musical interpretation), Lucy van Dael (original, humane), Rachel Podger (playful, joyful), Julia Fischer (tranquility!), Hilary Hahn (her concentration makes anything sound simple).
Great thing about solo Bach is that you have so many recordings to choose from! Anyway, I think you could also check out on YouTube (do a search) "David Juritz" and "Chaconne". It's not the complete piece (only about 9+ minutes), but it's another interpretation... the reason I recommend him is that I heard him live when he played the 2nd Partita on his "Round the World and Bach" tour, and it's a great version of solo Bach. Unlike some versions which can seem too "rich" or "heavy" for repeated hearing, his playing is interesting yet light. When speaking to David about the solo works you'll find he has some very interesting musical ideas about the set.
I little while ago I would have said Szeryng. Now I think I like Milstein and Szeryng about equally. Also, I really enjoy Menuhin's recording...the later one....and the earlier one, but the later one is special to me somehow. I think this is a little unusual though...
I would definitely recommend Milstein (I think the earlier recording) and Szeryng (both) without needing any of my sentimental feelings attached (Grumiaux is also very nice). James Ehnes, Julia Fischer, and Hilary Hahn have all also made great recordings...their recordings are more contemporary than the other two if that's a consideration.
Plug for an Australian: Richard Tognetti. (Leader of the Australian Chamber Orchestra).
I do think Heifetz is King, but for Bach I prefer to turn to others. Haven't heard Enesco, Grumiaux, Perlman or Hahn, and I'm sure they're all great.
II discovere d anew one on youtube the other day that almost never gets a mention: Christian Ferras. Not the Chacconne but the last two movements of the e major played so wonderfully I almost cried. That is pretty much my ideal (unless i am lsiening to Milstein, Van Dael, Enescu et al ;))
What do you like about the Enescu? I found myself disappointed withe the recording... and I was so excited to listen to it!
Just curious about your opinion, specifically. :-)
well, some of it is just awful;) He was well past his prime and very ill (I think) when that recoridng was made. I just try to move past the painful moments. Why I like the Chaconne in particular (listened to it through six times on first hearing it) is the enormous sense of structure I get from him. That somehow he was so able to understand instantly what so much music was about and how it all fits into one huge complex relationship, that time ceases to exist. Or rather all time coexists simultaneously. All experiences of music are happening at once.
Sounds a bit arty farty to me but its the best I can do on a Friday night. I also find a certain gypsy element lurking behind the cultured Renaissance man and I -really= like that in Bach. he was a bit on the wild side. I would recommend you give the Chaconne a few more listening. I in the end you are underwhelmed so be it. Just a question of taste.
Thanks Buri. Will do... :-)
I caught the Christian Ferras that Buri mentioned, and it was the first time I heard Ferras....this was back a bit when Brian Hong mentioned him. Like Buri, it almost brought tears to me and I instantly became a Ferras Fan!
that`s how I start my day- ferras Bach and carrot/garlic juice. Got some dried prunes as well in case you were worried......
carrot/garlic? Realy? I've hear of a tonic made with vinegar/honey/garlic........ I'm out of prunes.....Dang!
I vote for Uto Ughi, in a recording which is, unfortunately, very difficult to find. Wonderfully expressive but nonetheless restrained performances of the sonatas and partitas, with a specially fine chaconne.
you are right. Ughi`s career stalled for some reason but now you remind me I used ot ahve some excellent recoridngs of him. His Paginin concertos were very good to. I herad him live years ago.
Buri- Back on Feb 23rd you said....." to bad he (Oistrahk?) is daed I would ask him what he meant by 'genial'".... Did you know him?
It was a long, long time ago, but I thought the Joseph Szigeti performances were very thoughtful and instructive - for someone wanting to follow a mentor in playing the Bach sonatas and partitas.
Royce, he died roughly when I was born.
Can you blame him?
Here is a new video recording from last month:
Ahem...far be it from me to say "best", but my recently released 2nd CD includes the complete Bach D minor Partita - with, of course, the Chaconne.
For a truly unique perspective on the Ciacconna, look into the Hilliard Ensemble's recording. They have realized Helga Thoene's analysis and overlaid the choral "Christ Lag in Todesbanden".. For me, it is the fulfillment of the ciaconna.
Some collections from yt: violin-lc.blogspot.com/2009/09/bach-chaconne.html
Nathan Milstein, don't you think? But then I have this pro-Viktoria Mullova bias. Her performance in that echo chamber of a cathedral seems to require the deliberate tempo. I like the result.
From Richard Kim
Posted on December 23, 2012 at 05:18 AM
Without a doubt, Hilary Hahn, Jascha Heifetz, and Itzgak Perlman. Hilary Hahn's is perfect, exactly as written, and paints a wonderful picture. Jascha HHeifetz speaks through Chacconne( I spell it this way), as though through personally experience of Bach' pain at the tine. Itzhak Perlman is just great, my favourite violinist.
(Late to the Party)
I love this one (Mintz). His tone, restraint, dynamics, accuracy, I could go on, and often do.
Funny...in the video he plays it without moving.
Wow. I just heard Kristof Barati's "Chaconne" at: