The latest installment of violinist Isabelle Faust’s nine-year Bach adventure features the three brilliant violin concertos along with an assortment of pieces likely conceived originally for the violin – and it’s our CD of the Week.
Cellist Pablo Casals summed up the power of Bach when he said that the music makes divine things human, and human things divine. Performers know that in order to allow that effect to be felt they’ve got to hit upon a special way of playing – one that highlights the exhilarating details while never losing track of the bigger structure. Violinist Isabelle Faust strikes that balance with playing that is soulful and propulsive. Conductor Daniel Harding once called it “uncluttered honesty.” Critic Anne Midgette has said that Faust’s Bach is “illuminated from within.”
Faust’s latest two-CD set has the three monumental violin concertos at its core. The clarity and intimacy in her approach is perfectly matched by the members of the Academy for Ancient Music Berlin and conductor Bernhard Forck. Listen to the Allegro from the D minor Concerto (CD 1, track 3). Every gesture is spoken with incredible nuance and color. There is a lightness of sound and crispness of rhythm that impels the phrases through time as though they’d been picked up by an inevitable and mysterious wind. When she plays alone, Faust pulls you in, disintegrating at some of the endings just enough to remind you that even when music moves so unstoppably forward, there is always a deep silence that exists around it all.
Along with the Concertos comes a treasure trove of pieces that were likely meant for the violin when Bach first wrote them. Peter Wollny’s notes point out what’s often forgotten – that Bach was a virtuoso violinist who understood the instrument’s vast potential first-hand. Faust writes that she’s decided to show the violin from many perspectives – in trio sonatas, sinfonia movements, and overture-suites. She loved extrapolating the pieces that had to be reconstructed. The D minor Organ Sonata (CD 2, tracks 8-10) ends up with oboe and violin (with the amazing oboist Xenia Löffler). The resulting tenderness is incredibly heartwarming.
Here’s a video of Faust with a different ensemble, Arcangelo:
For more information and to purchase this album, visit ArkivMusic.
Editor's note: a previous version of this post misattributed the ensemble in the video as Academy for Ancient Music Berlin. We regret the error.