In the endless quest for a "definitive" Bach, this one jumps to the top of the list. Ms. Tenenbaum's ideas are often extremely personal until one checks the scores and finds that everything she does is inherent in what appears on the page. As a combination of musicality, insight and technical mastery, this is unique. Only the Szeryng operated on a comparable musical level. The additional cd with commentary adds a dimension of insight into this music that is simply amazing.
Review by Jan Hanford:
Performance: Uniquely Personal
Mela Tenenbaum is clearly a gifted virtuoso in love with the music of J.S. Bach. These Sonatas and Partitas are some of the most frequently recorded of Bach's works so it is sometimes difficult to distinguish between performances. While this is not my favorite performance of these works, Ms. Tenenbaum's performance is often beautiful, even at its most eccentric.
She has made some very personal choices in her tempo and dynamics which can come as a shock. At first I really hated it, but after revisiting it later I found that it grew on me. Her warm tone, precise control of ornamentation and expressive interpretation makes listening to these very familiar works an interesting and often rewarding experience.
The box set also includes a 3rd cd of narration where she explains, with examples, some of her philosophy and feelings behind her performance. Many listeners will find this information enlightening and will enhance their understanding and appreciation of these works and her intepretative decisions. Her love of Bach's music is completely infectious.
For a truly astonishing, beautiful performance I recommend her recordings of the Sonatas for Violin and Keyboard; she has recorded them with both piano and harpsichord accompaniment. Click here for more information about those recordings.
David Perrine said:
Without making any qualitative judgements, this is stylistically almost the complete opposite of Szerying. I couldn't help thinking of Dali's paintings of melting clocks.