on July 25, 2015
This is wonderful violin music. Grumiaux plays some of J.S. Bach's best work with power and elegance as appropriate for the music, and it's all done to produce the glorious singing tone of his Stradivarius violin. I don't think that it gets much better than this. The re-mastered sound is splendid, as befits the superb sonatas and partitas for solo violin. These are discs to treasure for a lifetime, as I plan to do. There are many versions of these difficult works to choose from, but Grumiaux is just so damned GOOD that he makes them sound easy to play. I know that they are actually very demanding, but Grumiaux was certainly at the top of his game when he made these recordings, and we should all be eternally grateful for that.
on November 10, 2006
These works are, for me, the highest possible achievement of violin music, and rank alongside the Cello Suites and the Well-Tempered Clavier as Bach's most meditative, introspective and spiritually profound works. They take you through a whole range of emotions and moods, and probably not coincidentally, like the Cello Suites, they end on a bright note, almost like the light of heaven shining down on you. Listening to the fugal movements is like being in a private cathedral of sound. And I say this without being a religious person in any way - this music is more personally spiritual, without being necessarily 'religious', like so many of Bach's vocal works.
I first heard these works performed by Menuhin (like Grumiaux, a student of Enescu), and though I retain a fondness for his recordings, I think Grumiaux's version is, all around, the best. I do agree with some of the other reviewers that Milstein can give a bit more passion, and I particularly like how the lower parts of the counterpoint are often more audible in Milstein (for instance, in the beginning bars of the D-Major section of the Chaconne - which is less accented in the Grumiaux), but I personally don't like Milstein's steely tone that much, and Bach sometimes sounds too much like hard work in his versions. In contrast, Grumiaux's tone is much warmer, I find, though he can put on the power very well whenever it's needed, and his playing is so effortless, one is able to really appreciate the beauty and profundity of Bach's works.
I'm very partial to period interpretations normally, and having now acquired Rachel Podger's recordings, I prefer those in many aspects; but on the whole, I find Grumiaux better than the other 'authentic' performance I've heard, that of Kuijken. Grumiaux IS old-fashioned, but he avoids the excesses of most of the others of his generation (even Menuhin takes some movements - like the third of the G-Minor - so slowly, it's impossible to remember it's a dance-movement!), and plays something that seems, to me, to be very much something in the spirit of Bach, even if not entirely 'authentic'. As Manze has said, there's nothing intrinsically wrong with playing Bach on modern instruments - the music is truly universal! Even though on a few points here and there I do prefer other recordings, overall, I find Grumiaux's is simply the best - and I think definitely the best introduction to this awe-inspiring music.
on June 17, 2004
I caught my first glimpse (or I should say heard my first strain) of this recording in a somewhat serendipitous fashion: I had been searching through the then-mighty Napster for a good recording of the Bach G-minor Fugue, and was instantly struck by how great the violinist was in the file I managed to come upon. After some research, I discovered that it was Arthur Grumiaux, and I then wasted no time in getting the complete set of recordings.
Grumiaux's Bach is marvellous in sheer purity and vibrancy. He does not shy away from a contemporary rendition of these pieces, instead of encumbering himself with all-too-often artificial limitations of so called "performance practise". Instead, the violin literally rings like a bell when chords are played, while the line of the pieces is meticulously developed and maintained throughout (no mean feat, believe me).
It is hard to say which is the best recording of any piece, let alone something as frequently recorded as the Bach violin solo cycle, but this comes pretty darn close to such a title.
on February 3, 2004
Several recorded versions of the Bach sonatas and partitas are about as good as performances can be, and, like the Well-Tempered Keyboard, these works are of such central importance to Western music that serious listeners simply cannot own too many versions.
But if I were restricted to owning just one, Grumiaux's would be it. Though pedants may complain that Grumiaux deviates from what modern scholarship has determined about Bach performance style, he still delivers a hundred percent of this most glorious music.
The recorded sound is superb: smooth and musical from first note to last. It is hard to believe that these recordings were made in 1960 and 1961. Now I see that Philips has 24-bit/96k remastered these. I will purchase that set immediately!
on March 10, 2003
I was going to buy Szeryng's recording but somehow got this one.
It's truly amazing! You can hear the passionate yet stately noble interpretation by Grumiaux along with the musicality he brought out from the sonatas and partitas. He adds to them his own style yet not affecting the objective view of looking at the music, which I think is important when playing Bach.
I play cello myself, and like the 6 cello suites these 6 works for unaccompanied violin are truly superior work for the instrument. It is a must-have collection, for anyone who even have a slight interest in violin/string music, and for anyone who loves Bach.
on March 9, 2003
This is not the best recording of these works, however it is still one that is worthy of the works. The tone is broad, warm and relatively rich. There are so many poor recordings of these works by comtemporary performers that you will relieved to come by a recording such as this. The playing here is such that it will touch your heart. In contrast to the recording by, my favorite, Nathan Milstein its very calm in character and fails to capture the drama certain parts of this work as Milstein does. Anyhow, if you are looking for a great recording of Bach and you have looked at Milstein, Szeryng and Enescu, buy this one, its worth it.
on June 14, 2002
This is a superb recording of a series of masterpieces. Grumiaux's performance is splendid and the quality of the recording is outstanding. This is one of my favorite recordings and can/should be listened to over and over. Due to the glut of older remastered and often superb recordings, classical music CDs are often relatively inexpensive. This one though is an incredible bargain, even at the usual retail price.