TAS Rated 5/5 Music, 5/5 Sonics in the January 2023 Issue of The Absolute Sound!
Executive Producer: Elliot Midwood
Tracking Angle Rated 9/10 Music, 9/10 Sonics!
After living a number of years in the United States, GRAMMY® and ICMA Nominated Finnish violinist Petteri Iivonen returned to Europe where he became concertmaster of the Finnish Opera orchestra in Helsinki before moving to Paris to serve as concertmaster for the Paris Opera. Petteri's ability to play in many styles with sincerity and his natural lyrical facility with his instrument made him the ideal candidate to work with luminary conductors such as Esa-Pekka Salonen in Helsinki and now Gustavo Dudamel at Paris Opera.
Petteri commands his instrument with ease. While much of his playing is exceptionally beautiful, it is not beautiful for the sake of being pretty. I have heard few violinists with Petteri's ability to control color and timbre, and even fewer who use this ability for such musical and appropriate ends. Petteri plays a Ferdinandus Gagliano violin in this recording, built in 1767. We recorded this performance during a live concert in Alfred Newman Hall at the University of Southern California. We chose a legendary Austrian AKG C-24 stereo microphone with the original brass surround CK12 tube, Midwood vacuum tube preamplifiers and no mixer recording to Agfa-formula 468 tape. The signal path was as short as we could make it, with as few electronics between performer and final product as we could manage. We hope you enjoy the results.
The chaconne most likely originated as a dance in the New World which returned to Spain (along with much gold melted into blocks from irreplaceable Pre-Columbian art and jewelry) after the conquest of the Americas. This original chaconne offered a fast, sexy, syncopated rhythm. Composers treated this dance with increasing invention and gravity during the Baroque era. Henry Purcell wrote complex and chromatic chaconnes for violin. Bach's Chaconne, from his Partita No. 2, may represent the culmination of this genre. Petteri plays with authority and freshness in any environment, and this recording reminds me handsomely why Johann Sebastian Bach remains among my favorite composers of all time.
- Bob Attiyeh, Producer
I always experience a mild wave of apprehension when first encountering audiophile recordings of J. S. Bach's works for unaccompanied violin and cello. Sure, the sound may be revelatory but how do the performances fare? Petteri Iivonen, currently concertmaster at the Paris Opera as well as a busy concerto soloist and chamber music collaborator, was only 20 when this concert performance was taped in 2008—yet his reading of the second of Bach's three Partitias for Violin alone is competitive with respected versions by Arthur Grumiaux, Itzhak Perlman, and Rachel Podger, to name just three I admire. The Finnish violinist's version is technically flawless and musically vital, especially the profoundly moving Chaconne which, at 14:20, takes up the entire 'B' side of this Bernie Grundman-mastered 45 rpm LP. Iivonen plays an 18th century violin made by Ferdinandus Gagliano that, tonally, falls somewhere between the brilliant focus of a Stradivarius and the dark earthiness of a Guarneri del Gesu. The recorded perspective is immediate but not claustrophobic—close enough to get a sense of bow gripping string and to eliminate audience noise but distanced enough so that the soloist's subtle dynamic graduations aren't quashed.
Everything about Yarlung Records' new album featuring the violinist Petteri Iivonen, the concertmaster of the Paris Opera, screams retro. The cover, a closeup photo of Iivonen, is in black-and-white, the violin is a 1767 Ferdinandus Gagliano, and the performance itself was recorded with an AKG-C-24 microphone with the original brass surround CK12 tube. But the LP itself could not sound more contemporary—deathly quiet, transparent and lucid. My 45rpm pressing had nary a tick or pop when I played it on my TechDAS Air Force Zero turntable. All the virtues of digital without any of its nasty artifacts, in other words, are present. The result is a humdinger of a recording of Bach's Partita No. 2 in D minor.
- 180g Vinyl
- Recorded in Alfred Newman Hall, Los Angeles, June 9-16, 2008
- Analog Tape Mastering Engineers: Steve Hoffman, Arian Jansen, Bob Attiyeh
- Vinyl Mastering: Bernie Grundman
- Executive Producer: Elliot Midwood
- Made in Germany
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Partita No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1004