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Dutch violinist Jeroen de Groot recalls watching footage of Glenn Gould playing Bach's Goldberg Variations as a teenager, amazed by the brazen idiosyncrasies of Gould's pianism (“That night Gould showed me the way to Bach, and to myself.”) Though Gouldian wilfulness isn't a destabilising influence on de Groot’s interpretations of Bach’s solo violin output. There's a very smart, shrewd musical intelligence at work here, de Groot's playing reflecting his lessons with the great Hungarian violinist Sándor Végh and showing a shrewd awareness of historically informed practice. Watch the interview segments on the bonus DVD and de Groot's sheer self-confidence is initially disconcerting, but spend a minute or so listening to him play and you’re immediately won over. Helped by a very close recorded balance, the joy and elegance of these performances is overwhelming.
His is a big sound, but it's never intimidating. Try a movement like the Sonata No.2’s Fuga, the separate lines delineated with rare skill. And, as a measure of quite how good de Groot is, sample the Giga and Ciaccona of the Partita No.2, the former’s folksy insouciance followed by playing of commanding power. You daren’t leave the room while the disc is playing.
There's plenty of joy too: Sonata No. 3’s effervescent Allegro assai a case in point. All exceptional, and the presentation is magnificent, the three discs packaged in a well-annotated, attractively designed hardback book. Why would anyone swap that for a download? Up there with Roger Woodward’s definitive Well-Tempered Clavier, and some of the best recorded Bach I've heard in ages.
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