JOËL BONS: Bomaden
Jean-Guihen Queyras, cello. Atlas Ensemble / Ed Spanjaard, cond.
BIS SACD 2073 TT: 61:35

BACH: Sonaas and Partitas for Solo Violin
Jaakko Kuusisto, violin
BIS SACD 2917 (2 disks) TT: 141:29

BEETHOVEN: Sonata No. 31 in A flat, Op. 110. Sonaa No 32 in C minor, Op. 111. Six Bagatelles, Op. 126
Yevgeny Sudbin, piano
BIS SACD 2208 TT: 62:53

Dutch composer Joël Bons (b. 1952) was awarded the prestigious 2019 Grawemeyer Award for Music Composition for Nomaden (Nomads). The composer calls this a journey during which the cello protagonist encounters musicians from different traditions and enters into dialogue with them. Although it is not called a concerto, it actually is one, consisting of 38 brief connected episodes. It was written for Jean-Guihen and the Atlas Ensemble (which was formed by the composer), who perform it on this intriguing new release. Accompaniment is by an ensemble of 18 players from China, Japan, Central Asia, the Middle East and Europe playing instruments from their countries. Detailed program notes are provided. The recording was made October/November 2016 in Amsterdam's Muziekgebouw and the BIS engineers have done their usual fine job in providing a rich, we-balanced audio picture. An unusual issue, new music presented in the most authentic style, in a definitive performance.

Yound violinist Jaakko Kuusisto already has to his credit many superlative recordings of major works, many praised on this site. Now he turns his attention to a milestone in the repertory, Bach's music for solo violin, namely the three sonatas and partitas. These have been reorded many times, notably by Nathan Milstein whose legendary 1970s recording recently wasreissued on DGG. This new Kuusisto reording challenges that and has the advantage of cystal clear sonics, reorded 2016 - 2017 ub ///sweden's Osteraker Chuch. A fine release, violin mastery of the highest level.

Russian pianist Yevgeny Sudbin alredy has made superb recordings of piano concertos of Beethoven and Mozart, all praised on this site. He seems better suited for these composers than for Rachmaninoff; I found his recording of the latter's Concertos 2 an 3 unexceptional. Now he returns to Beethoven with this issue of the composer's late music for solo piano, the mighty Op. 110 and Op, 111 sonatas. Exemplary performances recorded recorded July 2016 in Manchester's St. Peeter;s Hall. The Bagtelles were recorded November 2014 in Bristol's St. George's Church. Excellent sound, and a fine addition to the pianist's discography.
There are many questions surrounding Johann Sebastian Bach's 'Six Solos for violin', or the Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin, as they are usually called today. When did he compose them, and why, and for whom? In what circumstances were they performed? And why would a master of polyphony choose to write for a melody instrument with limited scope for polyphony or chords? We can only guess at the answers which makes the works all the more fascinating. The legendary violinist George Enescu famously described the set as 'the Himalayas of violinists', but for more than 200 years they were primarily regarded as pedagogical exercises rather than compositions worthy of the concert hall. Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann tried to popularize them by making versions with piano accompaniment, while Busoni did away with the violin altogether in his transcription of the famous Chaconne from Partita No. 2. But since Yehudi Menuhin made the first complete recording of the Sonatas and Partitas, between 1929 and 1936, they have become a staple during violin recitals, on disc and in concert. Fascinating performers and audiences alike with their architectural perfection as well as their emotional range, these are works that lend themselves to very different interpretations, and on this recording it is the Bach of Finnish violinist Jaakko Kuusisto we hear. Himself a composer as well as violinist and conductor Kuusisto remembers beginning to study individual movements from the set at the age of ten. The music has been with him ever since, and to him 'no other works for the violin provide a higher challenge or greater beauty'.

BIS ecopak Yevgeny Sudbin has previously recorded Beethoven's piano concertos releases which have received international acclaim, for instance on the website ''A Beethoven experience you will not want to miss.'' For his first disc featuring solo works by Beethoven, Sudbin has chosen the two final sonatas and the Six Bagatelles, Op. 126 late works written between 1821 and 1824, just a couple of years before the composer's death. There are numerous anecdotes that testify to the fact that Beethoven was highly temperamental. But in his liner notes to this disc, Sudbin writes of another, contrasting side to the composer: 'warmth, generosity and wisdom with unexpected outbursts of cheeky humour are also unmistakably among Beethoven's qualities and particularly evident in the works on this recording'. If Beethoven's 32 piano sonatas form one of the most important collections of works in the history of music, then the final ones belong to his crowning achievements. Various musicians and musicologists have commented on them, hearing a hard-won triumph of the spirit in the great fugue of the final movement of Op. 110, and interpreting Op. 111 and especially its second movement, the famous Arietta as a last farewell. The set of Bagatelles was composed only months after Beethoven had completed his monumental Ninth Symphony. It became the last work for piano to be published in his lifetime, and together the six brief pieces form a distillate of a lifetime of writing for and playing the piano.