Download of the Week: Bach

Lately I've been selling old things, buying new old things, and organizing the barn. This happens to be some of my favorite things to do. In so doing, I need appropriate music for the doing process as well as the aftermath. The peaceful part.

The doing tends to be organized freneticism so the calm after that storm is even more peaceful than the usual peaceful. One recording I go to in these moments is Arthur Grumiaux playing Bach's Sonatas & Partitas for Solo Violin, recorded by Philips in 1960 and released the following year (of my birth). I've been listening to this for so, so long, I own the CD.

From the liner notes by Julian Haylock:

When one studies Bach's original manuscript, it would appear at first sight that some of the notation as written is impossible to play. For example, Bach apparently asks for a moving part to be played on one string, whilst those on either side are simultaneously sustained. This has led to suggestions (and even perfromances) based on the notion that very flat bridge (the curved device which holds the four strings away from the body of the violin), might enable these passages to be performed exactly as written (the Baroque bridge was in any case less curved than the modern one). There was also the creation of the so-called "Bach bow," specially designed so as to facilitate some of the more "awkward" figurations. However, and despite certain noble attempts, thes ideas have now been largely discredited, Bach's "held" notes being interpreted (as in the solo harpsichord works) as musically implied rather than actual, and to be played instead as part of a "spread" chord.
That Bach was a joker.

The CD is 110+ minutes of music—it says so right on the front cover—and Decca Music Group Limited has added more minutes with the inclusion of Grumiaux's take on Bach's Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord, with Egida Giordani Sartori on the latter, which is the "96 kHz * 24-Bit Remastering" version that's available for download and streaming on Tidal. I listen to just the Solo version I ripped.

With all of the things that have been said about this recording, "Legendary" and "supreme masterpieces" being just two, I'm tempted to simply add, "If you don't have it, get it." But what fun would that be? If you listen to Grumiaux's Bach all the way through, over and over over time, it can help reorganize your brain for the better. At least I think so. And that reorganization feels peaceful. To me.

When I have this record playing, there's nothing I'd rather do than listen to it—the music draws me in like a savage beast being soothed. If you have any savage beast inside you (come on, we all do), get this record. You'll thank me. Really.

Available from Tidal and Qobuz.

Listen here:

rickayre's picture

Clicked through to Tidal, selected Flac, purchased and downloaded the files, which are 16 bit CD quality. FYI. I would love 24 bit so will search around.

Anton's picture

For some reason, the Arthur Grumiaux cover reminds me of John Marks.

It's a lovely recording.

2_channel_ears's picture
Brown Sound's picture

I am streaming this from Tidal as I type, good stuff, Michael. I figured I would work it in between the new Kenny Wayne Shepherd and Marty Friedman albums on Tidal. I do have a Tidal question, I currently have the HiFi membership, which love by the way. This album was $35 to download from Tidal. Is there some kind of price break for paying customers? Just curious, thanks Michael.

Elon's picture

Is there somewhere I can download this stateside? I don't have Tidal streaming, and prefer purchased music.

lbkwhitney's picture

I very much appreciated your review of the Bach Solo Violin Sonatas. With all of the stress and misery we see in the world, music like this reminds us that the better part of Humanity is capable of creating unimaginable beauty and good.

The Arthur Grumiaux trio (and friends) made a beautiful recording of Mozart's String Quintets for Philips. Rachel Barton Pine also has done a very good modern set of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas on Testament.

The Grumiaux Bach set can be downloaded from Qobuz (as can, it seems, almost everything else)