SOLO BAROQUE: RACHEL BARTON PINE, VIOLIN (CEDILLE) - In her latest CD, Rachel Barton Pine sets out to demystify J.S. Bach's solo sonatas and partitas for violin by juxtaposing them with rarely performed works from roughly the same period. It's her point that Bach's masterpieces deserve to be heard in the historical context of "German polyphonic (multiple part) writing for unaccompanied violin," she writes in the liner notes. "The most important examples of this tradition illustrate the influences on Bach and offer insight into how he transcended what came before to fulfill the ultimate potential of the genre."
Pine begins and ends the disc with Bach, the Sonata No. 1 in G minor and Partita No. 2 in D minor, playing a 1770 Nicola Gagliano violin in unaltered baroque condition that sounds remarkably rich. In between the Bach, she performs works by three composers from the late 17th and 18th centuries who advanced violin technique: Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber, Johann Paul von Westhoff and Johann Georg Pisendel. Not exactly household names today, but they were important violinists and composers who paved the way for Bach.
Solo Baroque includes Bach's first sonata as the work closest to those of his obscure precursors, and it's interesting to note the relative similarities between it and Pisendel's Sonata in A minor. But in the end, there's really no comparison, as Bach's method of communicating harmony and counterpoint on unaccompanied violin was revolutionary.
Pine's playing has a nice balance of formality and spontaneity. She brings out the dancey quality that exists at the heart of many of the movements. The CD winds up with the chaconne of the D minor partita, an amazing combination of spiritual depth and intellectual vitality. A