Kaplan Splits the Riches of Bach’s Complete Cycle

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While not exactly at the scarcity level of, say, a solar eclipse, a live performance of Johann Sebastian Bach’s complete cycle of Sonatas and Partitas for Solo Violin is still rare enough to qualify as an Event.

It is both an aesthetic and athletic event: The violinist is totally exposed, responsible for melody, counterpoint, harmony, rhythm, and making intellectual and emotional sense of it all.

Thankfully for the soloist’s (and audience’s) stamina, there is no rule saying that you have to do it all in one evening, so violinist/UCLA faculty member Mark Kaplan split the cycle into two parts, offering the first half in the newly refurbished Ostin Hall on Wednesday night. Rather than divide the cycle between sonatas and partitas or following the order of Bach’s manuscript, Kaplan made his own dramatically effective lineup--opening his journey with the joyous Preludio that launches the Partita No. 3, continuing with the Sonata No. 2, and concluding with the Partita No. 2, whose Chaconne sealed the evening with its mighty, granitic strokes.


Kaplan made his case throughout with a rich, luminous tone quality that hung resonantly in the air; near-perfect intonation, even in the most treacherous multiple-stopped chords; expressive rubatos in the slower dances; sufficiently graceful rhythm in others. He could dig trenchantly into the Sonata No. 2’s great Fuga, finding the climaxes and crunching them with satisfying, robust attacks. The one movement that could be found wanting was the Chaconne, where you couldn’t sense a single, building, unbroken line of tension that would have tied it together more tightly. Mostly, though, these were formidable performances.

* Mark Kaplan concludes his cycle of Bach Sonatas and Partitas in Ostin Hall, in UCLA’s Schoenberg Music Building, Wednesday at 8 p.m. $10. (310) 825-2101.