Viktoria Mullova's Solo Bach Recordings

May 8, 2014 at 11:28 PM · Viktoria Mullova Goes for Baroque

This seems to be a really great recording.

Replies (20)

May 9, 2014 at 04:08 AM · It is!

May 9, 2014 at 04:47 AM · Isn't it!

May 9, 2014 at 03:09 PM · It is!

May 9, 2014 at 08:24 PM · Her first recording on "romantic" violin was one of my favourites for a long time. I still think that it is the best performance of partitas in that setting. Then, when she "went baroque" I rushed to buy her double CD and got disappointed. She has done a great job, but old habits die hard and the performance is just half-way toward Baroque.

Check out Rachel Podger's double CD for a reference.

May 9, 2014 at 08:51 PM · This performance is magnificent! It is the first one I've heard that combines the historically informed player's knowledge and total immersion in the style, with the violinistic mastery and tonal beauty and variety of a mainstream solo artist.

May 10, 2014 at 10:35 AM · Is this the S&P album you're all referring to? I purchased just today after reading on your site Timothy. Thank you for bringing her to attention - I love it. Have had her brisk fuga c major on repeat most of today.

May 10, 2014 at 10:35 AM · Is this the S&P album you're all referring to? I purchased just today after reading on your site Timothy. Thank you for bringing her to attention - I love it. Have had her brisk fuga c major on repeat most of today.

May 10, 2014 at 08:31 PM · John Cadd asks: How authentic can any performance be if Bach`s composition was not seen or played till many years later?

It depends what you mean by "authentic." The term that is commonly used nowadays is Historically Informed Performance, (HIP.) That means that the artist knows such things as: what does a slur in Bach mean? What does a dotted eighth and sixteenth in Bach mean? What kind and amount of phrase shaping was expected of the player in Bach's time? What kind and amount of rubato was expected in Bach's time? What was expected of the player in terms of staccato, detached and legato note lengths in Bach's time? What was expected in terms of tempo? Was the player expected to add ornamentation and if so, when and how much?

All of these things were written down by authoritative musicicans from that period including CPE Bach, Tartini, Quantz, Geminiani, and others.

We don't have to slavishly do everything they said. It would be impossible anyway since they so often disagree. However it behooves us to become informed -- Historically Informed.

May 11, 2014 at 12:23 AM · Hi John. Thanks for your response. Bach seems to have made no effort to have the S&P performed. Perhaps there were no violinists available to him who were capable of performing them. However some of the easier movements could certainly have been performed. Public performances of instrumental music were rare. Mostly it was the church music that was played publicly. It seems likely to me that Bach regarded the S&P as in the same category as the Well Tempered Klavier which was composed as he stated in the manuscript -- "for the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning, and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study."

The playing tradition, in any case was lost so that by the time Czerny made his edition of the WTC, as he had heard it played by Beethoven, the style was purely early nineteenth century. Mendelssohn and Schumann followed suit with their 19th century versions of Bach.

At any rate, the playing tradition IMHO derives not only from the S&P but also from the works for keyboard, and the works for ensemble. And also it derives not only from the music of Bach but also from his contemporaries and predecessors. Various scholars have said, for example, that you can't understand the dance music of Bach if you haven't studied the works of Couperin. I don't believe there exists a separate tradition for the S&P that does not share the features of the larger tradition.

Menhuin, much as I love and admire his artistry, ranks very low on the HIP scale. I feel it is a tribute to the genius of both Bach and Menuhin that he can play the music so movingly with so little affinity for the style and the period.

May 11, 2014 at 10:44 AM · Why do we hear "romantic" tradition pianists play far more Bach and Scarlatti than Haendel or Couperin? I think it come from the greater opportunity to reveal hidden riches with "modern" means, and that the music's qualities are less tied to the unique sound of the harpsichord.

On the violin, when I listen to the S&P's played by Enescu, or by Menuhin in his fabulous 1976 sessions, I find Bach's writing revealed in all its heart-rending intensity. But there is an altogether different magic in "baroque" renderings, where there is less Storm & Stress, and where the violin can hum, chirp and whisper, and where its power comes from within the violin rather than being pressed in from the outside..

Then there are "modern" artists who capture some of the "élan" of the HIP-sters: Viktoria Mullover in 1994, Yo Yo Ma in the 'cello suites.

At one time I had to alternate tangos in a dance band, and HIP performance; so, two violins, one mounted with Spirocores, the other with Eudoxa, and a gut E!

May 11, 2014 at 12:09 PM · The one aspect I really enjoy in HIP Bach are the chords. All modern violinists make the 3- and 4-note chords sound like a stroppy fox terrier about to attack my ankle.

May 11, 2014 at 02:28 PM · off-topic of Bach, but some interesting bio info about Ms. Mullova:

May 11, 2014 at 03:02 PM · Hi John, There was a time when HIP was very new, trying to establish attention and differentiate itself from the mainstream, when the leading exponents, notably Harnoncourt and Co. approached it with a missionary zeal, exaggerating everything -- more like a pedantic preacher then an artist. I remember hearing those early recordings and being completely turned off. But as the movement has matured, and also attracted better players, the artistic level has risen and the exaggeration has died down. My favorite HIP violinists are Jaap Schroeder, Lucy van Dael -- and if you want an extreme POV, Monica Huggett. Perhaps the best player is Andrew Manze who unfortunately has not recorded the S&P. I also love the way some of the mainstream players are establishing a halfway point -- adopting some but not all of the HIP characteristics, and showing a depth of dedication and study to period practice. Viktoria Mullova would be a prime example. I've also heard some interesting new things from Vengerov.

May 11, 2014 at 03:38 PM · In the context of this thread I think I ought to repost this just to show my personal POV. Hope y'all find it of interest.

May 13, 2014 at 12:59 AM · Greetings,

I think your safe... I like your comment abo

ut Van Dael. She was/is something of a groundbreaker but it can be a bit extreme I think. She once made an interesting comment that ' when we slow down people call it rubato, but when we speed up it's called rushing.'



May 13, 2014 at 03:32 AM · Yes. Lucy van Dael is a bit extreme. But I feel it's worth sticking with her to enjoy the things about her playing that are really special and unique -- things she does better than almost anybody else, mainly in the realm of the small nuances, shaping the smaller phrases, and also capturing the dance feeling. I feel that the HIP players in general, even the ones I don't like, have an affinity for the musical language of the period that comes from spending a lifetime immersed in that style, and also from studying not only the mainstream compositions, the S&P etc, but also the music of many other composers including the ones that Bach studied and used to form his own musical style.

May 13, 2014 at 10:10 AM · Roy thanks for posting your didactic video about the Bach adagio. You show in such a clear manner how to dive deeply into a piece. Also I think I've written before how I really like how you look with a warm smile at the camera while playing, I think it's not so easy to do that so naturally as you do it.

May 13, 2014 at 10:21 AM · Just listened to Bach Chaconne by Lucy Van Dael, thanks for having mentioned her name here. With quite a few players, even of great repute, I often have the feeling the player is fighting the piece rather than playing it. Here Lucy Van Dael really plays it making it sound simple and clear and bringing out the dance and the melody.

May 13, 2014 at 10:43 AM · My inspiration for HIPping is the miraculous gamba style of Jordi Savall. When everyone else is out of the house, I try the Chaconne on my viola, and try to imagine how Mr.Savall would play it, or even a lutenist. Light years away from the epoch making viola versions recorded by Lionel Tertis (massive) and Rudolf Barshai (more violinistic).

If I have the time, I even tune down a tone: the viola rings so beautifully I don't even want a vibrato.

May 13, 2014 at 12:39 PM · Many thanks, Jean :-)

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