BACH: Partita No. 2 in d, BWV 1004; Partita in E-flat, BWV 1006 – Kolja Blacher, violin/ Frank Arnold, words – Phil. Harmonie 06007, 69:16 **:
This has got to be one of the worst concepts I have ever come across, and should have been aborted immediately. Well, I suppose if you are German or speak German it might have some mild interest, but I can’t imagine any Bach lover wanting to hear two of his greatest works for solo violin divided up with the poetry of the German Baroque! I mean, what is the point? I know that much of what these poets say really do reflect the times that Bach lived in, but does anyone for one moment think that these poems have any relationship to the music at hand, even remotely? Of course not! If it had been a pianist involved I am sure that the words could just have easily been slipped into the English Suites with no loss of meaning—or lack of it. As is, the words are not just inserted between movements, but actually into the middle of them as well, and the effect is irritating in the extreme. Who needs this? And what sort of effect is intended? It essentially turns Bach’s music, which speak volumes beyond the poems represented here, into theater works.
The real shame is that Mr. Blacher plays these pieces very well, and if I was him I don’t think I could stand the idea of some sort of half-witted narration interfering with it (think of those recordings where the Four Seasons poems are read before the music is played—at least those had some connection to the music as Vivaldi tried to represent very specific lines in his music. Bach never knows what is hitting him here).
If this appeals to you—and please write, as I would love to know who you are and why you like this—by all means go for it as the music is nicely presented and the narration seems competent. Otherwise, decidedly not recommended.
— Steven Ritter
A rich reflections into Rachmaninoff’s oeuvre