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Bach Violin Recital

Sonata No. 1 in G minor BWV1001 for solo violin
Sonata in B minor BWV1014 for violin and harpsichord
Sonata in C minor BWV1017 for violin and harpsichord
Partita No. 2 in D minor BWV1004 for solo violin (Chaconne only)

Viktoria Mullova violin
Ottavio Dantone harpsichord

Wigmore Hall, 30 September 2009

Short music & theatrical events are common these days, sometimes unexpectedly so. Barbican Bite is often short; Kings Place has had a Bite-size Baroque season of 45-mins concerts; we found that a Wigmore Hall Sunday afternoon concert, which looked a substantial programme on paper, was one hour without an interval, and now Mullova's (a sell out with prices up to £30) offered only an hour's music in an evening celebrity concert.

Mullova is a star violinist and she plays Bach very well; she varied her tone attractively and was unfussy with the Chaconne, stressing its 3-in a bar dance origin, and getting through it in record time?

There are hundreds of photos of Mullova on the internet... The one chosen gives an idea of her presentation at Wigmore Hall, attired, we thought, more suitably for a pop event... She was not quick to come onto platform after the lights were down... She shortened her scheduled programme, for no obvious reason. There was a lengthy interval and yet all was over by ten past nine. She treated her partner as an olden-style accompanist and it was incomprehensible that she did not offer him a penultimate solo spot ! He had but one opportunity to exercise a little expressive influence on the performance, in the first movement of BMV1014.

By chance (Musical Pointers doesn't chase star celebrities) we had not reviewed Mullova before. But Ottavio Dantone is a power in the early music scene. We have reviewed him five times, always enthusiastically, in a wonderful Handel organ concertos disc; directing Purcell, a Vivaldi opera, and Vivaldi's L'Estro armonico; and in Tartini and Telemann...

The programme (£3) had the usual lengthy analytic notes, which no one has time to read, but none of the information one wanted. Was Mullova playing her Strad or her Guadagnini; was it strung with gut strings - probably, because tuning took an inordinate amount of time. She seemed not to have a baroque bow or to use baroque violin playing techniques, although she was reasonably discreet with vibrato. The large brown harpsichord looked and sounded well, but what was it?

Perhaps the ploy was to leave the audience wanting more and buying her CDs on the way out?.

Peter Grahame Woolf