Khachatryan's Consummate Bach
J. S. Bach: Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, Sergey Khachatryan, violin (Naïve)
Pillars of the violin repertoire, Bach’s unaccompanied Sonatas and Partitas have been recorded by virtually every great violinist, past and present. Only players with consummate technical command and a compelling personal interpretation should attempt to add to that discography.
Sergey Khachatryan has both these qualities in abundance. His previous recordings featured romantic favorites by Sibelius, Khachaturian, Shostakovich, and Franck, so his choice of unaccompanied Bach for this CD seems somewhat surprising. But it immediately becomes clear that he has made these works his own.
Technically, his playing is absolutely stunning in its perfection and effortlessness. His intonation is immaculate, his facility unlimited but never used for display. His bow control is incredible and puts an enormous variety of articulation at his disposal. His sound is flawlessly pure, even in the chords. Stylistically, his playing is untouched by “period practice”: his tone is rich and ravishing, with vibrato on every note. (Remember that before the “authentic” revolution, Bach was generally played this way.)
Musically, the performance is persuasive, despite a few cavils. To underline structure and phrasing, Khachatryan often makes long pauses between phrases and interrupts dynamic buildups with sudden drops. He brings out voices with dynamic and extended agogic accents, but breaks all chords upward, even when the theme lies in the bass. And he mars the simplicity of the Third Partita with fussy rhythms and dynamics. But these are minor flaws in a performance hard to match for superb instrumental mastery and tonal beauty.