This second volume completes Isabelle Faust's recording of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas. It has been eagerly awaited by many people and they won't be disappointed - Faust's remarkable skill and musicianship produce a terrific interpretation. She plays with minimal vibrato, exceptionally intelligent ornamentation and a directness which is very striking. The closing Presto of the First Sonata, for example, is quite brilliant here, taken at a thrilling speed with Faust's magnificent technique allowing her to remain utterly fluent and completely engaged, and other movements show similarly exceptional skill and imagination.
Whether this is the recording for you will depend upon your response to Faust's interpretation, which may not suit everyone. All three of the sonatas and partitas on this disc are minor-key works and they are very meditative and atmospheric. As an example, in the hands of Rachel Podger the opening movement of the disc, the Adagio of Sonata No.1, is mournful but humane and Viktoria Mullova's reading is more sinewy but shot through with human melancholy. For Isabelle Faust it seems rather bleak and desolate - marvellously played and interpreted but, for me anyway, not an easy listen.
The recording is slightly dry which adds to the slight sense of mortality and darkness which seems to me to pervade much of this disc. Personally, I think that's great and the effect is powerful and moving. I am very glad to have Isabelle Faust's Bach alongside my other loved interpretations and I think this will be a recording which I will still be playing in many years' time. Very warmly recommended.