There are many great fiddlers performing today, but few who have the deserved reputation of Gidon Kremer. Here is an artist who does not follow the tried and true path, but is always searching, experimenting, and growing as a musician and musical thinker. This DVD was a real treat for me, as I have collected his recordings for years and even had the rare opportunity to see him live in concert. I have his original recording of the six sonatas and partitas for solo violin of Bach, which he recorded in the late 1970s. It is an outstanding recording. Why did he decide to revisit them a quarter-century later? As he explains in a revealing documentary on this DVD, he seldom records anything twice. (This is true--he has recorded the exquisite Schubert C Major Fantasie at least twice, the first time with his wife at the time, Elena Kremer. But I can't think of anything else right now.) But for some reason, he felt drawn to revisit these masterpieces of Bach, not because he didn't like his first effort--he did. But he felt that for at least some of them, he had something to add because he himself had changed and grown over the time in between.
This DVD contains performances of the B minor, D minor and E Major Partitas for solo violin of Bach, performed in a church in Lockenhaus, as well as the documentary film about the recording. If one is used to watching violinists like Heifetz and Oistrakh, who didn't move around very much and registered relatively little facial expression, one may initially be a bit uncomfortable watching Kremer. However, this should wear off in a short time as one pays attention to his music making, which is technically near-perfect and musically challenging. You may not always agree with his interpretation, but again, as he comments in the film, there is no one right way to play Bach, and his interpretation must stand with literally thousands of others.
In the documentary Kremer comes across as very human and not conceited in the slightest. He's not afraid to show us behind-the-scenes footage of the taping session, complete with a few fluffed retakes (he stamps his foot in a mini-tantrum after one flub that I'm sure only he could hear!), and uses an electronic tuner and metronome--tools that I myself use, so I'm glad to see that an artist of his stature isn't beyond that. But more importantly, he has important things to say to aspiring musicians.
There is much more to this DVD than I have time to talk about right now. If what I write helps you make up your mind to buy it, I'm glad for that. It's a wonderful document!