|Comments:||Brian Broadus said:|
I own a copy of the 1955 Nathan Milstein recordings of these six pieces and, while I believe his work still has considerable value and currency, I wanted a set that more closely presented the pieces as Bach might have played them. I compared samples from the Huggett set to those from another historically-informed performance by Elizabeth Wallfisch (on Hyperion-Dyad), and purchased the Huggett. Why? Both violinists are evidently technically accomplished, and both perform the sonatas (including the fugues) with exceptional clarity, respect, and reserve-you can hear and understand every note in them. Wallfisch invests the great ciaconna with more energy and passion, and Hyperion sells its CDs for less than does Veritas. But the audio recording of the Hugget performances is absolutely exceptional-knife sharp and up close. There is no "room ambience" to be found in it, while room echo is, for me, disturbingly present in the Wallfisch collection. (I should say that, because I have limited high-frequency hearing in one ear, I prefer to listen to audio recordings through headphones.) And, in a shocking departure from current "I'm too sexy for my shirt" marketing practices, the booklet that accompanies the Hugget set devotes eight pages to text, and seven of those to Bach. The writing describes how these pieces fit into his life work and how they ought to be performed according to Bach's own standards. They employ illustrations of musical measures to describe precedent and interpretation.
As a whole, the Monica Huggett performance is very carefully played and brilliantly recorded. If I were looking to buy only the Partita No.2 and the Sonata No. 3, I'd buy the "Club Lara" St. John CD in spite of her label's Yanni-like selling techniques. The performances are simply that good. But I was hunting for one whole, representative set, a genuine academy-style record of an essential Bach work, one which could take its place along side the Trevor Pinnock Brandenburgs and Goldberg, the Gardiner B-Minor and St. Matthew, the Schiff English Suites, and the Koopman Passacaglia recordings I already love. The Huggett performance was my top choice.