This is a wonderful budget issue of the complete Isabelle Faust recording of the Bach Sonatas and Partitas. I have owned and loved the original single discs since they came out – and were both Gramophone Editor's Choices. 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. As an example, in the hands of Rachel Podger the opening 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 Faust's playing. Personally, I think that's great and the effect is powerful and moving. I am very glad to have this alongside my other loved interpretations and I am sure this will be a recording which I will still be playing in many years' time. Very warmly recommended.
I used to have an excellent recording of Sonatas & Partitas for solo violin by Viktoria Mullova on tape. The playing was very pure and captured the spiritual strength of these pieces. I wore these tapes out and was looking to replace them on CD. However I heard the Faust version on the radio and was struck by the fact that she had Mullova's purity but also an attack which gave much more of an edge to these works. She also captures the wonderful symmetry of the music.