Johann Sebastian Bach Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin Review

Released 2010.  

BBC Review

Silvery, bright and pure, Khachatryan delivers a deeply expressive interpretation.

Charlotte Gardner 2010

Maturity is a funny thing. Some people have it practically from the cradle, whilst others are still waiting for it to hit as they collect their old-age pension. The young Armenian violinist Sergey Khachatryan must surely fall into the first category, from a musical perspective at the very least.

Khachatryan’s name may not be familiar to many yet, but it's only a matter of time. He started learning the violin aged five, and just five years later was performing with professional orchestras. Aged 15, in the year 2000, he became the youngest-ever winner of the Sibelius Violin Competition in Helsinki. In 2005, with First Prize in the Queen Elisabeth Competition freshly under his belt, a critic described his Proms performance of Shostakovich's First Violin Concerto as "one of the most mature and complete interpretations of this piece it is possible to imagine". You get the picture. So, to this disc of JS Bach's solo sonatas and partitas, repertoire which must be one of the ultimate tests of a violinist's technique, maturity and musical soul. Khachatryan may still only be in his 20s, but his interpretation leaves the listener wanting for nothing.

Bach composed this collection of pieces in 1720, whilst Chapel Music Director to Prince Leopold of Cöthen. Despite the religious-sounding job title, this was a particularly important period for his secular composition, as he was obliged to provide weekly chamber music on top of his chapel duties. The six solo cello suites were written around this time, as were the Brandenburg concertos. It was the violin, though, that Bach played himself, and with considerable accomplishment. One of his sons, CPE Bach, later described his father's tone as "clean and penetrating". And this description could just as easily be applied to the sound made by Khachatryan.

Silvery, bright and pure, he gives a youthful air to a deeply expressive interpretation that feels knowing beyond his years. Everything about his performance is to be savoured. Phrasing and dynamics play Bach's multi-layering effects to the full. Fast passage-work, ornamentation and multiple stopping are cleanly delivered, and with deft control. The recording acoustic – a Swiss concert hall – is as perfect as one could wish for. All in all, a quite wonderful listen.

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