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Bach: 6 Sonatas & Partitas - Aldemir

Bach: 6 Sonatas & Partitas - Aldemir

Cybele  SACD 231903 (2 discs)

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Instrumental


Bach: 6 Sonatas & Partitas

Atilla Aldemir, viola


Atilla Aldemir, although equally at home on the violin, chose for his recording of the Sei Soli BWV 1001-1006 in the St. Agnus Church in Köthen the viola as his instrument and he could well be right historically, although the technical difficulties are increased due to the much larger scale lengths than those of the violin.

Johann Sebastian Bach loved the viola: that much is clear! His eldest son, Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach, reports that Bach as the greatest expert & judge of harmony in the orchestra preferred to play the viola. At the end of his life, according to a posthumous inventory, he had in his possession, among other instruments, three violas and a Bassetgen. In all likelihood, Bach himself played this instrument. Further proof of Bach's love for the viola, however, is moreover to be found in another Köthen case: the Brandenburg Concertos, which only received their name long after Bach's death. They ought to be called the Köthen Concertos because they were written and first performed there. The viola plays an exceptional role in three of these concertos, for which the history of music provides no other examples up to this time.

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Review by Adrian Quanjer - November 4, 2020

On many occasions, I’ve maintained that there is so much more talent around than the handful ‘names’ made famous through commercial channels. Atilla Aldemir is such a hitherto not widely enough recognized talent. This double release is no less than a revelation. Not only because the violin sonatas and partitas are played on the alto, and not only because they are played on an instrument that -interesting detail - already existed in Bach’s time, but also, and pre-eminently so, because of Aldemir’s stunning playing.

People familiar with his previous recording, entitled ‘Passion’, released on the German label GWK Records (Alto sonatas by Brahms, Franck, Shostakovich, etc.) will not be surprised. He is, indeed, a master on the viola in every meaning of the word: Technically, with perfect intonation, and passionately, with an unbelievably accurate sense of hitting the right mood at the right moment. Ideal for Brahms. Bach demands different qualities. And, yes, he got them too, as he amply demonstrates with this new recording!

Comparing with Midori Bach: 6 Sonatas & Partitas - Midori# whom I had the pleasure to review some time ago, the are some similarities like transmitting the composer's intentions as honestly as possible, with well-judged tempi, commensurate with historical practices, at the same time noting that there are clearly discernible differences as well. Apart from the viola’s warmer timbre, Aldemir’s reading has a more singing, call it romantic if you like, character. Together with none or a very light vibrato, remaining well within traditional baroque limits, the spiritual vibes go right to your heart. His playing is addictive, someone said, and I believe it is indeed.

What I most appreciate though, is that his reading is not about displaying a technical tour de force, the pitfall of so many young artists trying to impress. It is first and foremost about serving the music and through it the listener. Furthermore, played on the viola, the familiar solo sonatas and partitas shine in a differently coloured, almost autumnal light. Or, as Aldemir says: “The lower-pitched instrument gives me the possibility of foregrounding the contrapuntal elements”. Quite the antithesis of Julia Fischer’s glorious violin account (Pentatone PTC 5186 072, re-issued on PTC 5186682). During the listening sessions, it occurred to me that Aldemir did not just play the music. With supple bowing, he seemed to be drawing the geniality of some of Bach’s major compositions straight from the memory-laden soundboard of his 1560 Pellegriono de Micheli instrument. Sheer magic.

Midori’s version is unique in that it is excellent for watching, played against the decor of the beautiful Castle of Köthen, Germany, whereas this new recording, taken in the Sankt Agnus Kirche in the same historical German town, is unique in that it offers, next to pure DSD, an additional 3D-Binaural-Stereo format using an artificial head, which is specifically meant for headphone listeners.

The notes do not say who the author of the viola arrangement, or more correctly I suppose, transcription is. For all I know the French viola player, Gérard Caussé, made one, so this one could well be his’, although there are also older transcriptions like those of Angelo Consolini (1859–1934) and Werner Icking (1943-2001).

Both SACD’s are in a handsome carton digipack with an informative booklet in the middle.

Surely a must-have for all serious Bach enthusiasts

Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France.

Copyright © 2020 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net

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