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CD Review: Johann Sebastian Bach: Six Sonatas for Violin and Piano 

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Violinist Michelle Makarski has pursued a career that's equal parts jazz and classical, working in a duo with pianist and fellow Woodstock resident Marilyn Crispell and other jazz players while maintaining expected activity as concert soloist and recitalist. This project with esteemed jazz pianist Keith Jarrett evolved out of informal music making during holiday visits, and it retains a strong sense of spontaneity that comes from the relaxed atmosphere in which it was born. It is not superficially jazzy Bach; it is Bach played by musicians who are expert improvisers, remaining respectful to Bach's score. Makarski and Jarrett do not clutter it up with much in the way of ornaments or other historic filigree. It is clean, emotive, unfussy, and flexible Bach.

One hindrance to any violinist willing to undertake the six accompanied Bach violin sonatas is the sheer heft of those who have done them in the past; how could one hope to match what Perlman did with these sonatas in the '70s, or Milstein in the '50s? Makarski once took master classes with Milstein, but whatever she may have learned from him is subsumed into the whole of her interpretation, which is light and easy. Through avoiding a sense of competition with past versions and bringing a fresh perspective to this familiar music, Makarski and Jarrett have achieved what might be the most accessible and readily appealing set of the Bach Six Sonatas for general listeners.

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  • David N. Lewis reviews Johann Sebastian Bach: Six Sonatas for Violin and Piano.


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