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Janine Jansen's Inventions

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Bach, Two- and Three-Part Inventions, Partita No. 2, J. Jansen, M. Rysanov, T. Thedéen
(September 25, 2007)
Violinists have enough excellent music written by Bach for their instrument that they should not have to plunder the piano repertory. As odd as it sounds, this recording makes a compelling case for its arrangement of the keyboard inventions (fifteen in each set) for violin and viola (two parts) plus cello (three parts). Dutch violinist Janine Jansen, whom Ionarts reviewed with the NSO last February, teamed up with violist Maxim Rysanov and cellist Torleif Thedéen, all playing on 18th-century instruments. The group will be playing concerts of this program around Europe and the world over the next several months, including only one stop in the United States, at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art (March 8, 2008).

The inventions are exercises for students of the keyboard and composition, and by playing and analyzing them you learn the basics of counterpoint. The challenge for a developing pianist is to tease the voices apart and make your hands impart enough color to distinguish voices from one another. What if you could hear those voices played by different instruments? The two or three strings have rather individual timbres but enough in common still to make the piece sound like a convincing whole. The inventions are sometimes overlooked as studies but reward serious listening when played well, as is definitely the case here. You can get a preview in this promotional video (with snippets of two of my favorites, Sinfonia no. 3 in E-flat and the enigmatic Sinfonia no. 9 in F minor).

Online scores:
Two-Part Inventions (BWV 772-786)

Partita No. 2 for Violin Solo (D minor, BWV 1004)

Three-Part Inventions (Sinfonias, BWV 787-801)
Separating the two sets of inventions is Jansen all alone, playing the second Bach partita for unaccompanied violin. Mostly Jansen's recordings have given me roughly the same impression as Jens described in his review of her Mendelssohn concerto with the NSO. She has remarkable technique and a theatrical sense of how to put it to effective use. She will likely record an impressive complete set of the solo Bach pieces eventually, but she might do well to follow Viktoria Mullova's cue and get her feet wet in Baroque style. For the time being, this single partita is a foretaste of things to come. The muscular Ciaccona is an exceedingly brief and vigorous 13:18, shorter even than Rachel Podger's.

Decca B000990502

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