While Bach Week was kicking off at Nichols Auditorium in Evanston, violinist Rachel Barton Pine and harpsichordist Jory Vinikour were giving a Bach recital of their own at the Logan Center in Hyde Park, performing two duos and two solo works by the baroque master. While their performance had many enjoyable moments, overall it was a bit rough. Vinikour, though not perfect, held his own pretty well at the harpsichord, but Pine’s violin generated lots of squeaks and slid-over notes, interrupting those moments of joy.
Johann Sebastian Bach wrote many works for harpsichord and violin, solo and duo. Part of the challenge for a duo is blending the harpsichord, which, as a plucked string instrument, has a sparse, tinny sound and only two levels of volume, with a warm sounding violin that has a huge dynamic range. Having recorded Bach’s violin and harpsichord duos for a 2018 release on Chicago’s own Cedille Records, Pine and Vinikour are well practiced in overcoming this challenge. Especially remarkable was how well Pine’s violin sounded with Vinikour’s harpsichord, even when she was playing loud. Her sound never completely swamped the harpsichord.
Their ability to blend was shown immediately with the opening slow Adagio of the Sonata for Violin and Harpsichord in b-minor, BWV 1014. Vinikour set the stage with two-note chords in the right hand and a line of continuo on the left, creating three contrasting melodic lines. Pine quietly joined in with a single note that soon built up to great intensity. Before long, she was playing two-note chords creating an additional two melodies, which resulted in a very typical Bach style of five interweaving tunes. Notwithstanding Pine’s challenges Friday night, it still came off well. Their next two movements were enjoyable, but Pine and Vinikour were particularly effective at capturing the finale’s exuberance, especially the sudden pauses and momentum breaks.
Read the full review on the Third Coast Review website.