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Sonatas & Partitas for Solo Violin BWV 1001-1006
Ingrid Matthews (Violin)
Ingrid Matthews - S&Ps

S-1

J.S. Bach: Violin Sonatas & Partitas

Sonatas & Partitas for solo violin BWV 1001-1006 [16:42, 29:22, 21:58, 29:20, 22:57, 18:11]

Ingrid Matthews (Baroque Violin)

Centaur 2472/73

Jul 7-9, 1997

2-CD / TT: 138:30

Recorded at St. Bridget's Church, Iowa City, Iowa, USA.
Buy this album at:
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Ingrid Matthews - S&Ps

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 7, 2002):
Then I put on my current favorite version, by Ingrid Matthews (Centaur 2472). With lower voltage she makes the music sound a lot easier than the mystery performer does. It dances gracefully, and sounds both poised and spontaneous (a difficult balance to find).

To sum up Matthews' delivery very briefly: her performances in this set are like Wispelwey's in his second recording of the cello suites...soulful, graceful, warm, communicative, a casual delivery balanced with excitement: buoyancy from inside the music, rather than drive imposed on it. Performances that sound involved but not hung up on themselves. In other words, "just right" in my opinion...Bach comes through with uncommon directness. The music presents itself.

Piotr Jaworski wrote (March 7, 2002):
Or I had missed or you never posted more detailed review of Ingrid Matthews recording of solo S&Ps. Could you do that now, please? I like her playing very much - on couple of good, old Wildboar CDs, and would love to know more about this performance. The 'Wispelway comparison' caused that I want this recording ASAP!

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 7, 2002):
I've "known" the S&Ps for 20 years: listening to Milstein and Heifetz, studying the scores, listening to a library copy of Luca. But I never really liked them: they always seemed austere, heavy, whiny, repetitive, dull. How could a composer of those wonderful suites for cello turn around and write these off-putting works for violin?

About 12 years ago I got Jaap Schröder's set, and Kuijken's. These recordings gave me some more hope for the pieces...more dance, clearer structure, a more attractive sound. Still, the pieces didn't resonate with me and I didn't feel like listening to them very often. They still seemed austere, forbidding. I made my own transcription of the Chaconne and played it for a while, along with Bach's transcriptions of the A minor sonata (into D minor) and the E major partita. OK, but the pieces still didn't do that much for me. I got the disc of Bylsma playing BWV 1003 and BWV 1006 on the mid-sized cello, and Leonhardt's transcriptions of BWV 1001 and BWV 1005. Those helped a little.

Within the past year I bought the sets by Jean-Jacques Kantorow and Lucy van Dael. Those took my back to my younger reactions, not liking the compositions very much.

Then the pair of revelations happened. I got Hopkinson Smith on lute, and Ingrid Matthews on violin. Suddenly, wow. I wanted to leave these recordings in the player and listen to them over and over, hearing how marvelous the music is. And I have. I had a cassette dub of Matthews in the car, and played it until it broke.

I listen to her, and the music sounds fresh and different every time, like a beautiful adventure: even though I've heard the recording a few dozen times now. The music is surprising yet inevitable, there are quirks and turns, and I hear different levels of structure and freedom in her playing every time. It's phenomenal. Her playing is thoroughly involved, yet also understated and almost casual; she lets all the effects jump out of the music instead of trying to add drama and intensity. It's poignant, it's hushed, it's carefree, it's exciting, it's darkly melancholy, it's a dance, it's harrowing, it's fire and ice, it's a vinaigrette, it's a warm hug, it's lonely, it's hopeful, it's direct soul, it's frighteningly intense, it's the whole range of human emotion. She got me to like the music, love the music. It finally sounds like the great Bach who wrote the cello suites and everything else. Crystalline structure, a perfect balance of regularity and irregularity, fresh every time.

I was playing some of her set this morning, and my wife (not listening to it very closely) commented that the music is boring. Ah well. At least she was hearing it as well as it can be played. I changed to some of Haydn's delightful trios for baryton, viola, and cello, and those got more favorable comments.

I leave Matthews' set in the machine, and can't get enough of it. What more needs to be said? [Centaur 2472-2473, DDD, released 2000.]

 

Feedback to the Review

Juozas Rimas wrote (March 7, 2002):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< I've "known" the S&Ps for 20 years: listening to Milstein and Heifetz, studying the scores, listening to a library copy of Luca. But I never really liked them: they always seemed austere, heavy, whiny, repetitive, dull. >
Bah, didn't expect this description from Bradley... You never know... :)

I can't imagine anyone calling the Sarabande from the 1st violin partita dull. It almost made me cry on the 2nd listen, although I don't "catch" music quickly (had to listen 5 to 10 times to certain pieces of the Musical Offering for them to blossom). It's really a very easy-listening bit - although the doubles and other fragments, especially in the sonatas, can be a hard nut to crack.

The Chaconne required 3 listens maybe. It's a separate world. Unhumanly austere, yes, but a more powerful work than all Beethoven's symphonies taken together to me.

Oh, and it was the set by H. Szerying. I don't know if it's regarded to be good but I was content.

Piotr Jaworski wrote (March 8, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] Endless thanks! What a wonderful mail! What comments!!!! Splendid! Ufffff.... that will be a purchase ... Centaur not represented in Poland at all, will be terribly expensive acquisition. But I do not need an further arguments, words of encouragement etc.

Bradley Lehman wrote:
< (snip) I was playing some of her set this morning, and my wife (not listening to it very closely) commented that the music is boring. Ah well. At least she was hearing it as well as it can be played. I changed to some of Haydn's delightful trios for baryton, viola, and cello, and those got more favorable comments. >
Great story! Hats off to All Our Loved Wives!!!!

< I leave Matthews' set in the machine, and can't get enough of it. What more needs to be said? [Centaur 2472-2473, DDD, released 2000.] >
I'll do my best to put my hands on this set sooner or later (what is more likely!). But when it happen - I'll dedicate this set to Brad Lehman!!!

Trevor Evans-Young wrote (March 9, 2002):
[To Juozas Rimas] This is interesting, I first heard the Syzering set as a teen and fell in love with them. Later I was told that Milstein was the set to listen to. I found it dull and harsh. Maybe we are influenced by the first performer or orchestra and it is hard to change to someone else. After swimming in Gould's Bach for years, it is hard for me to listen to someone else because I always hear what is missing as compared to Gould.Does anyone else experience this phenomenon?

Juozas Rimas wrote (March 9, 2):
[To Trevor Evans-Young] In my opinion, it's more or less experienced by any human. The general inertness - the difficulty to re-orient.

I know many people fell in the "Gould trap". By appling certain enforcement I'm beginning to get out of it by searching for better versions of some of his apparently too-fast recordings, including a big part of Goldbergs. But it's not easy to me, just as to find something better than Szerying's S&P, Richter's SMP, Herreweghe's MO (simply because I listened to them first). I also happened to first listen to Richter's Brandenburg concertos. Now this is bad because I know there are much livelier interpretations and getting used to Richter will cost me additional effort to fall in love with a better rendition.

Harry J. Steinman wrote (March 10, 2002):
Bradley Lehman wrote, regarding the S&Ps:
<snip> < I never really liked them: they always seemed austere, heavy, whiny, repetitive, dull.

Then the pair of revelations happened. I got
Hopkinson Smith on lute, and Ingrid Matthews on violin. Suddenly, wow. I wanted to leave these recordings in the player and listen to them over and over, hearing how marvelous the music is. >
I'm not familiar with Matthews, but you might enjoy the Rachael Podger recordings. I find them very warm, expressive. To my untutored ears, her bowing technique surpasses anything I've heard (I own van Dael, Milstein, Sitkovetsky, Ricci, Grumaiux).

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 10, 2002):
[To Harry J. Steinman] Ah yes, Podger. Another very good one. Before buying the Matthews set I did listen to parts of Rachel Podger's set. I heard enough to know that (for me) this wasn't the one to get. Beautiful mastery, pleasant enough and all that, but it just didn't move me. It was too consistently "merely nice," politely smiling, if I remember my reactions accurately. (That's the overriding character of her Palladian Ensemble recordings I've heard, too.) Warm, but not enough of the other extreme highs and lows of emotion.

I do like Podger's playing in the two Bach double concertos (BWV 1043 and BWV 1060) with Andrew Manze. Admirably free. That's my favorite period-instrument recording of both those concertos...but their BWV 1060 still makes only a gentle polite smile next to the heart-wrenching BWV 1060 of Stern/Tabuteau/Casals.

Peter Bright wrote (March 10, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] I agree with Brad about the Podger recording. Her playing is wonderfully supple but it lacks gravitas/ownership in places (I prefer the sonatas for violin & harpsichord with Pinnock & concertos with Manze). I was lucky enough to meet her once, well before she had made a name for herself. She was a student in London (at the Guildhall school of Music I think) - I remember being rather the worse for wear (we were at a party). The friend I was with (an accomplished musician) and I, for some reason, thought it would be funny if we traded places for a while - he became the psychologist and I the musician. Somehow I managed to convince her of this (ridiculous as my knowledge of musical theory is very limited) and ended up telling her how to interpret the score she was trying to work on (may have been Bach for all I knew at the time). Amazingly, she seemed to agree with my daft comments. Anyway, she really did seem an exceptionally nice person and I wasn't proud of my actions. Still, no harm done (I hope).

Harry J. Steinman wrote (March 10, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] For my money, Pablo can do no wrong. And this from a four-square HIP enthusiast. His Brandenburgs are peerless.

Joost wrote (March 11, 2002):
[To Bradley Lehman] When I read your comments on Rachel Podger's S&Ps, I thought: doesn't he know Monica Huggett's S&Ps?

I share your observations on Rachel, whom I like in the faster movements, but in the slower, more introspective movements she lacks depth. And this is exactly where Monica excels, both in her Virgin recording and in concert performances.(Virgin 545205 2) If I hadn't known you were writing about Ingrid Matthews some days ago, I could have sworn you were promoting Monica...

Michael Grover wrote (March 11, 2002):
[To Trevor Evans-Young] There is a memorable quote in one of Stephen King's books (Low Men in Yellow Coats - the movie "Hearts in Atlantis" is based on it) that captures this sentiment perfectly. In regards to the memories of one's first kiss:

"It was the kiss by which all the others of his life would be judged... and found wanting."

Donald Satz wrote (March 11, 2002):
[To Michael Grover] I remember that quote from King's book. If the first kiss is the one by which others are judged, all the others will seem great compared to the first.

Michael Grover wrote (March 11, 2002):
[To Donald Satz] Well, I can see that YOU'RE not a hopeless romantic. :)

Donald Satz wrote (March 11, 2002):
[To Michael Grover] Yes, I'm not much of a romantic. Just reflecting that the first kiss will tend to be awkward and not very rewarding - gets better with time. I can't even remember my first kiss; come to think of it, I also can't remember the most recent one either.

 

Sonatas & Partitas for Solo Violin BWV 1001-1006: Details
Reviews of Individual Recordings:
S&P - B. Cruft | S&P - R. Gaehler | S&P - H. Hahn | S&P - S. Kuijken | S&P - I. Matthews | S&P Guitar - P. Galbraith [K. McElhearn] | S&P Guitar - H. Smith [K. McElhearn] | S&P Guitar - H. Smith [Schweickert]
General Discussions:
Part 1 | MD - Chaconne
Discussions of Individual Recordings:
S&P - H. Hahn

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