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This rather special disc showcases both the high summer of the Italian Baroque style and the early spring of an extraordinary performer of our own time.
In writing his violin concertos, Bach learnt from his predecessors and contemporaries both home and away, no less than he did in the other genres he perfected. This is one of his most enduring qualities – one shared by Stravinsky in particular – to listen and read and learn wherever he could, take what he found, and turn it on the lathe of his own genius. So he made sure to study the concertos of his Venetian predecessor, who was famous even in his own time for the easy mastery of the concerto grosso style that allowed full licence to the brilliance of a solo performer while always staying within the bounds of accessibly structured forms and deftly shaped, memorable melodies. Dialogue, of an almost operatic kind, was prized. Bach took all of this, and, especially in his E major Concerto, one of his most extensive essays in the genre, imbued it with a new seriousness of purpose and intensity of expression. The slow movement of the Concerto for two violins is a still point in a turning world, and has touched the hearts of millions since Adolf Busch and Yehudi Menuhin made their pioneering recording in the 1930s.
Menuhin was one of those who, early on, recognised the distinctive talent of the Japanese violinist Midori (b.1971); this is among her first recordings.
“These are all good, stylish performances, with sometimes rich string sound set off by a very reasonably audible and usually very welljudged harpsichord contribution. Also with a good quality of recording, they can be
confidently recommended to those listeners who wish simply, and entirely sensibly, to enjoy the music… For a 14-year-old [Midori’s playing] is stupefyingly good; indeed, in the two double violin concertos she plays with
Zukerman on pretty equal terms. This is an accomplishment restricted, you might say, to only a very few 14-year-olds, girls and boys, Japanese, European, or anything else.”
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