J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Nathan Milstein
Individual Works:Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001
Partita No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002
Sonata No. 2 in A minor, BWV 1003
Partita No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1004
Sonata No. 3, in C, BWV 1005
Partita No. 3 in E, BWV 1006
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:Deutsche Grammophon
Catalog Number:423 294-2
Year Released/Recorded:1975
Total Playing Time:CD1 56:21
CD2 69:30
Comments:Greg Jeffreys said:

Point 1. Everyone says that their favourite is 'the best'. (Is intellect for 'the search' - or is it to clothe a feeling with articulate justification?)

Point 2. I was very depressed to hear an extended playing of the Chaconne by a 17 year debut artist (Helen Hann...?). Beautiful tone, wonderful playing. But a 'section break' for almost every variation. I think she manages 18 minutes - it was like Klemperer on Prozac.

So I share with you my enthusiasm. This is a wonderful recording. As the modern instrument differs so fundamentally with that of Bach's day, he has left a text that has had to be changed: you can't un-invent history.

Kevin C.E. Yen said:

Both Jascha Heifetz and Nathan Milstein were Leopald Auer's favorite students. Even though Heifetz is no question the king violin, however, his recordings of Sonatas and Partitas (recorded in 30s, 50s and video of Chaconne in 70s) give me a feeling that he wasn't playing Bach at all, he was just showing off. Also the tone qualities were no good.

Nathan Milstein, well his technique wasn't as good as Heifetz but I swear to God that Heifetz's Tone Quality can NEVER compare with Milstein's. Milstein's last recording of Bach's Sonatas and Partitas is definitely one of the best recordings of J.S. Bach and Nathan Milstein. The sound is crystal clear, we can clearly listen to Milstein's breathing sounds, sniffing sounds and most important, his interpretation.

The Sonatas were played with elegance and glory. Unlike Heifetz, he didn't abuse the vibrato and he didn't destroy the style of baroque violin playing. The Chaconne, well every violinists hates this piece because it's long, difficult and if you have small hands... you would find this piece impossible to play. Yes this particular piece is probably one of the most difficult string pieces in the history of violin playing and Milstein made mistakes! Heifetz played perfectly well and fast but without the taste of Bach.

If you want to listen to the real Bach violin music, get the Milstein and you won't be disappointed!

Loke Hoe Yeong said:

A stunning recording, made by a master. Milstein plays naturally and yet with much awesome strength. The Chaccone is amazing, and he strives on power rather than virtuosity, creating a lasting effect on the listener. This should be the best modern playing record of the solos around. I have no idea what to say about the Heifetz. Heifetz is the King, but he is just not suitable for Bach. I don't know about period performances, as some people want to keep Bach 'pure'. Milstein's DG recording is preferable to the EMI one for clarity and stereo effect. But I trust it would be also interesting to listen to the EMI one.

Peter Savage said:

I have to admit to being an enormous Heifetz fan - I've spent a fortune on "Shaded Dogs", but when I heard this Milstein recording (actually on the LP) I was transfixed. There is a transparency that justifies the cliche - he lets the music shine through. I have heard many other recordings but this one is truly outstanding. I have to thank Albert ten Brink of A Classical Record for pointing me to it. Do hear it on LP, the sense of air and space as well as the instrumental timbre, will rivet you to your chair.

Dermot Elworthy said:

Possession of just one recording of these works probably is not enough but if one is limited to that, this would be my choice. My favourite is Joseph Suk but, sadly, this is not available as a CD. Perlman is brilliant but I find myself marvelling at his astonishing technique rather than appreciating the music. Milstein has a distinctive warmth (best reproduced on vintage Tannoy speakers!) I like and recommend him.

David Perrine said:

Agree with previous posts regarding Milstein/Heifitz. Latter of Milstein's two recordings. Fair amount of rubato in places. Strident double-stops are the main drawback to an otherwise excellent version. (Comments based on LP, CD might sound better or worse.)

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • Jacques Blin
  • Greg Jeffreys
  • Kevin C.E. Yen
  • Loke Hoe Yeong
  • Peter Savage
  • Dermot Elworthy
Date First Submitted:01/16/1999