Virtuoso violinist Movses Pogossian releases his soulful performance of Bach’s iconic Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin. The recording represents a wonderful balance between historically informed and modern approaches to the repertoire, and is shaped, in part, by Pogossian’s meaningful association with luminaries György and Márta Kurtág. Paul Griffiths contributes wonderfully creative and lyrical liner notes.
Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Minor, BWV 1001
Violin Partita No. 1 in B Minor, BWV 1002
|VII. Tempo di Borea
VII. Tempo di Borea
Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Minor, BWV 1003
Violin Partita No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1004
Violin Sonata No. 3 in C Major, BWV 1005
|IV. Allegro assai
IV. Allegro assai
Violin Partita No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006
|III. Gavotte en Rondeau
III. Gavotte en Rondeau
|IV. Menuet I and II
IV. Menuet I and II
Acclaimed Armenian born violinist Movses Pogossian releases his performance of the full set of Bach's iconic Six Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin. Pogossian's soulful and thoughtful version strikes an ideal balance between various approaches to Bach. He incorporates the best characteristics of historically informed performance alongside aspects of the expansive, violinistic style associated with 20th century readings. His deep understanding of the structure of these works provides the foundation for the entire recording, elucidating the genius craft behind the fugues, the elegant harmonic architecture of the slow movements, and the brilliant "fortspinnung" or "spinning out" of motivic and episodic material in the fast movements. His lively articulation in dance movements is matched with a lyrical purity in the slower material. Pogossian mines the spiritual core of the slow movements brilliantly, preserving forward direction at deliberate tempi that allow him to explore the emotional color of each note. His approach is influenced by close work with György and Márta Kurtág, whose essential insights on Bach and music in general have inspired legions of wonderful musicians the world over. Pogossian is Professor of Violin at UCLA and can be heard as a soloist and chamber musician worldwide, as a champion of new compositions and virtuoso performer of works in the traditional canon. Proceeds from sales of this recording are going to support two organizations: Music for Food in Boston and the Lark Musical Society in Glendale, CA.
Executive Producer: Varty Manouelian
Session Producers: Benjamin Maas and Varty Manouelian
Editing Producers: Varty Manouelian and Movses Pogossian
Engineer: Benjamin Maas, Fifth Circle Audio
Recorded at the Evelyn & Mo Ostin Music Center at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music
Additional editing: Jonathan Bruns
Design and layout: Marc Wolf
Liner Notes: Paul Griffiths
Photos: Anneliese Varaldiev, Judit Kurtág, Benjamin Maas
Logistical support: Luis Henao
Artistic Advisor: Guillaume Sutre
Project management: Daniel Lippel
This recording is made possible, in part, by the UCLA Faculty Research Grant, and the Faculty Opportunity Fund of the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music
All proceeds from this recording will be donated by the artist, in equal measure, to
Lark Musical Society, Glendale, CA larkmusicalsociety.com
Music for Food, Boston, MA musicforfoodboston.org
Armenian-born violinist Movses Pogossian made his American debut with the Boston Pops in 1990, about which Boston Globe wrote: “There is freedom in his playing, but also taste and discipline. It was a fiery, centered, and highly musical performance…”. Winner of several international competitions, he has performed worldwide. As a chamber musician, Pogossian has performed with members of the Tokyo, Kronos, and Brentano string quartets, and with such artists as Kim Kashkashian, Jeremy Denk, Lynn Harrell, Ani and Ida Kavafian, and Rohan de Saram. Movses Pogossian was the Founding Artistic Director of the critically acclaimed Dilijan Chamber Music Series since 2005 for 15 seasons. A committed champion of new music, Pogossian has premiered over 100 works, and works closely with composers such as G. Kurtág, K. Saariaho, T. Mansurian, Gabriela Lena Frank, Artur Avanesov, and Vache Sharafyan. Pogossian's discography includes the Complete Sonatas and Partitas by J. S. Bach, albums "Inspired by Bach", "Blooming Sounds", "In Nomine”, and “Hommage à Kurtág”. The Bridge Records CD of Complete Violin Works of Stefan Wolpe made the 2015 Top Ten list in Sunday Times (UK), and the 2020 releases of Armenian contemporary music: “Modulation Necklace” (New Focus Recordings) and “Con Anima” (ECM) have garnered critical acclaim. He is a Distinguished Professor of Violin at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music and also Founder and Advisor of the UCLA Armenian Music Program.https://schoolofmusic.ucla.edu/people/movses-pogossian/
When it comes to Johann Sebastian Bach's works for solo violin and solo cello, it seems to me that their popularity and influence are at a peak. Or is it just that my appetite for hearing them has become more insatiable as I seem to continually hear them anew? But it is not just me. I have come across and mentioned on these pages a number of interesting compositions in the contemporary new music scene that make use of solo Bach in creating new confluences. And the number of new releases of recorded performances of the solo works seems higher than ever before...and more diverse in terms of the baroque to modern spectrum of possibilities.
I won't try to explain why this may be so. I cannot easily say, except to note the possibility that we are in a new baroque era ourselves, aesthetically speaking. A discussion on that would tip the balance of this review away from the music itself, so I must cut it short. Regardless, the solo works speak to us today as some of the most direct expressions of Bach's genius, surely. And string players have for a long time had the tackling of these works as a key part of their training, no? What counts in the end is their beauty, their facing of the musical cosmos with just four strings and a wealth of inventive brilliance.
Armenian violinist Movses Pogossian brings us a new version of Bach's Six Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin on 3-CDs (New Focus Recordings FCR 178) and I for one am glad he did. I've been immersed in the recording for a couple of weeks, sounding a constant as the parade of life passes by, anchoring me in the unassuming but vastly rich music that counters all that life might hold in store, or amplifies it, depending on how life is at the time. For me it is more a countering these days.
At any rate Pogossian does not bring us an ultra-baroque reading, with catgut strings, baroque bows and a litany of ornamentational end points. He choses the conventional modern violin and a straightforward but feelingful production of the six works. Nonetheless it sounds very true to Bach, so I guess one could say it is a middle-of-the-road version. Pogossian gets inside the music and gives us strong performances of the very sturdy sections, then slows down to savor the movingly preludian portions.
In the end Pogossian sings from his depths and thereby channels Bach in ways that bring us joy. I most certainly recommend this version if you don't have one yet. It is a benchmark for how we hear the music today. It also extends and compliments other versions, you who like me cannot seem to get enough.
Pogossian is a true artist. His Bach rings with its own creative truth. That is a great thing.
— Grego Edwards, Gapplegate Classical, 4.4.2017
On the back cover of the booklet inserted in the album sleeve is the handwritten note: “in memory of our common research of g minor. a minor sonata / Budapest 6.9.2015 / Márta-György Kurtág.” Before recording the Sonatas and Partitas Movses Pogossian journeyed from Los Angeles to Budapest to work with the 89-year-old Kurtág and his wife Márta. Pogossian had collaborated with the composer before, but on Kurtág’s music, notably the Kafka Fragments, which he performed with soprano Tony Arnold in Toronto this past March. It was then that I asked Movses about his “research” with the Kurtágs. He said that Kurtág was very particular about harmony, structure and tempo and had an allergy to anything that did not feel right. Capturing the character of the piece was the most important thing. For instance, Kurtág said the subject of the A Minor Fugue should be “without emotion,” suggesting the link between key and Affektenlehre.
Their “research” resulted in transforming the Sonatas and Partitas into something in the nature of six Baroque altarpieces, where each movement is a panel depicting a tableau that illustrates some aspect of the key in question. Pogossian remains faithful to the affect of each set, even in the Double of the Corrente of the B Minor Partita, where he frames the torrential stream of notes within the penitential mood of that key. Phrasing is free, as though allowing singers to breathe and dancers to pause between phrases. Pogossian’s approach is far from those who treat this repertoire as though an extreme sport.
The G Minor Adagio, dark timbre, grieving harmonies, each phrase rising from stillness, the fioriture parsed for motivic shapes, the last chord held 12 seconds a niente for a running time of nearly six minutes; the grave Fugue (Kurtág wished it slower); the lilting Siciliana danced with sad restraint; the grimly brilliant Presto. The desolate A Minor Sonata, the Andante, an aria of loss (compare Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben). Pogossian plays the D Minor Partita with noble restraint, and takes the cosmic Chaconne at a stately quarter = 46. He treats the Adagio of the C Major Sonata as though the Creator is breathing on the waters (eighth = 40), while the Olympian Fugue follows as the fully formed world. The pastoral Largo in F major is all smiles, and the final Allegro could be titled Tutto nel mondo è burla. The E Major Partita radiates uttermost joy.
The three CDs are a panoply, but they give only a hint of when one sees Pogossian in person, for he enacts the affects of the Sonatas and Partitas with his whole body and breath. Such intense identification of body, mind and spirit with sound is a rare gift. I am also grateful for the notes by Paul Griffiths, who wrote virtually short poems on each of the types of movements. They end with words on the Ciacconia: “Finally the voices spiral into the keynote. This was the lesson that had to be taught and learned. How to end.”
— Austin Clarkson, 5.30.2017, The Whole Note