J. S. BACH: Solo Violin Sonatas Nos. 1-3 (transcribed Korhonen) – Timo Korhonen, guitar – Ondine

by | May 18, 2009 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

J. S. BACH: Solo Violin Sonatas Nos. 1-3 (transcribed Korhonen) – Timo Korhonen, guitar – Ondine 1128, 56:14 **** [Distr. by Universal]:

There are only two other recordings now available, to my knowledge, of either the violin sonatas or partitas–Frank Bungarten gives us both on a wonderful and highly regarded set by MDG (in his own arrangements), while Nicholas Goluses duplicates the recital here on an equally well done Naxos recording, also in his own arrangements. Timo Korhonen now follows suit with yet another version, with the difference that he employs scordatura tuning, and refuses to add any extra bass notes, feeling that this comes from a romantic notion of tonal color, and is out of place in this music.


I mean, a transcription by its very nature departs from the original intention of the composer, especially when we are speaking of tone color. There are still extra added notes to fill out implied chords from the violin scoring, etc., so I am not at all sure that eliminating the bass notes adds anything substantial. If you want the original, pull out the violin recording. Korhonen also believes—though in the notes this is presented as a mere supposition without any real concrete or historical proof—that Bach was “processing his grief [over the recent death of wife Maria, whose funeral he was unable to attend] through Lutheran confessionalism.” He then goes on to demonstrate through key relationships—as posited by one Dietrich Bartel—that Bach had created a scheme based on the Lutheran conception of the divine origin of intervals.

None of this means anything to the listener of course, as interesting and speculatively wondrous as the theory may be (and I am not convinced, but anything is possible). What really matters is how do these works sound, and are they interpretatively meaningful? In comparing them to the above listed competitors, I find Timo Korhonen’s tone much brighter than the other two—whether this is the recording’s doing or not is hard to determine—and he does display a remarkable elasticity in his readings, and his voicing shows great clarity in this version. These are obviously well thought out readings of strength and purpose, and as such are easily recommended. Whether they supersede or surpass the other readings is not so easily assumed, as they are also fine renditions, and the Naxos price may be a deciding factor, or whether you want the partitas coupled in a set. I am assuming that Korhonen has the partitas in the bag also and that Ondine will be releasing them later. But you won’t go wrong with any decision you make.

— Steven Ritter 

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