Mark Kaplan

Mark Kaplan’s Solo Bach Recording

If you’re looking for rare treasures in the form of recent classical music releases, try hanging around your local classical radio host. A few days ago, as the announcers at my local public radio station were clearing their archives of duplicate promotional recordings, I ran across Mark Kaplan’s March release of J.S. Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin on the Bridge Records label. Compare this recording to the equally wonderful period performance by Daniel Stepner that I profiled last month, and you’ll get a sense of the variety of approaches that can be brought to this music.

Kaplan offers a modern, slightly Romantic interpretation with a pure sound, colored by a narrow, well-focused vibrato. Throughout, there’s a sense of lightness, spontaneity, and attention to the overall structure of the music. For example, listen to the Giga from the D Minor Partita. I love Kaplan’s use of ornaments (even in the E Major Partita’s Preludio, where you might not expect them) and the improvisatory quality of the rolled chords, as in the D Minor Partita’s lamenting Sarabanda

Kaplan plays “The Marquis” Stradivarius, made in 1685, the year of Bach’s birth. This disk follows another Solo Bach recording (now out of print) that Kaplan made twenty years ago for Mitch Miller Music.

Here is the Fugue from the Sonata in G Minor. Listen to the unique character of each voice as it enters:

Towards the end of the G Minor Sonata’s fugue, you may have been reminded of the powerful pedal tone of a pipe organ. In fact Bach, the consummate musical recycler, transferred this fugue to organ in the Prelude and Fugue in d BWV 539 and to lute in the Fugue in G minor, BWV 1000.

The E Major Partita’s Gigue is filled with playful ornamentation and a sense of rhythmic style:

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