Most of us will have heard Johann Sebastian Bach’s exquisite Partita No. 3 in E major for Solo Violin. My knowledge of solo violin repertoire however stops there. I was therefore very keen to listen to violinist, Francisco Fullana’s new album, in which he explores Bach’s solo violin work and its musical legacy.
Many legendary artists and composers have been inspired by the baroque meister. Eugène Ysaÿe for one (1858-1931). When Ysaÿe wrote his Sonata for Solo Violin he had fallen in love with J.S Bach’s Partita, notably his Preludio.
In the Sonata’s first movement entitled Obsession, the famous Bach Prelude opening appears for a second. Fullana thereon launches into a thrilling violin solo of unexpected virtuosity. Ysaÿe’s note patterns and chord progressions echo those of Bach’s, his musical style however is not Bach’s, rather it is designed to impress. For comparison’s sake, I found it useful to listen to Bach’s elegant Preludio, and to follow it with Ysaÿe’s dramatic Obsession. Ysaÿe wove in other elements – the Dies Irae (Catholic Mass for the Dead) for example, which gives Obsession its anxious, ominous quality.
Fullana dazzles you with his technique and feverish emotion. Ysaÿe wrote the Sonata in 1923 when he was frail and had stopped performing. There is a desperation in the music as if Ysaÿe wanted to show us all his brilliance before leaving us forever.
Bach’s Partita No. 3 in E major which followed, was another matter. It was like plunging into a clean lagoon after having too much sun! I don’t know whether this was Fullana’s intention, to have the hot frenzied work followed up by Bach’s cool, elegant composition.
It was back to the heat with two romantic Spanish works by Isaac Albéniz (1860-1909) and Francisco Tárrega (1852-1909) which conjure up life in the Andalusian villages. Here the original tremolo guitar technique was transposed to violin. In Fullana’s impassioned play, I really felt the Spanish national’s roots coming through (though he now lives in the US).
Ysaÿe’s Sonata for Two Violins wrapped up the album perfectly, violinist, Stella Chen, proving the perfect match for Fullana.
Fullana is making waves in the music world, and you can see why. Whether playing baroque or romantic music (which demand very different techniques and styles) he really impresses. If you love Bach’s famous Partitas and who would like to discover new violin repertoire, Bach’s Long Shadow is for you.
‘Bach’s Long Shadow’ Francisco Fullana, violin is out on Orchid Classics https://orchid-music.lnk.to/fullanabachalbum and streaming platforms.