It took a few pages of Bach’s Sonata No 1 for violin and harpsichord in B minor for Isabelle Faust and Kristian Bezuidenhout to get the balance between their instruments right in this Wigmore Hall recital. Yet once they had done so, with Bezuidenhout’s bright modern harpsichord, a 2010 copy of a French instrument of 1769, reined in and Faust’s violin sound more consistently projected – in itself a fascinating process of in-flight adjustment – this all-Bach evening hit its stride and never lost it for a single moment thereafter.
In each half of the programme, two of Bach’s set of six sonatas for violin and harpsichord bracketed a substantial solo by each player. In Faust’s case, this took the magisterial form of the second solo violin sonata in A minor. This received a reading that managed to be both utterly focused yet full of grandly expressive contrasts, resulting in a sumptuous musical journey from the broadly phrased arcs of the opening grave, through the concentrated fugue and fragile andante to the firm-fingered fleetness of the finale. Bezuidenhout’s solo was more overtly virtuosic, the youthful Toccata in D minor, with its swirling opening flourishes and rapid-fire fugal counterpoint, all compellingly articulated by this most characterful of keyboard personalities.
But this was very much an evening for the interplay of two musicians in the four duo sonatas, not a collection of solos. Somehow it helped rather than hindered that the two players have such apparently different musical personalities, with Bezuidenhout’s exuberance weaving itself into the luminous intensity of Faust’s sound and generating an exhilarating creative spontaneity between the two. The singing lines of the mellow third sonata in E were especially finely achieved, but the panache and lightness of the sixth sonata in G, in which the harpsichord has a fully formed and extended solo, was a constant reminder that dance is never far away in a set of Bach sonatas that require precisely the partnership of equals that these players provided.