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William Yeoman
Gramophone, October 2010

Solo fiddle works transcribed, faithful to the styles of both guitar and violin

Like fellow guitarist Paul Galbraith, Timo Korhonen finds much of interest in the numerological and theological correspondences in Bach’s music for solo violin, and allows in his interpretations for an emotional narrative of sorts. Galbraith, the more beautiful player of the two, is also the more interpretatively rigorous, seeing the six Sonatas and Partitas as an “instrumental gospel story in triptych form, telling of the Birth, Passion and Resurrection of Christ”. Additionally Galbraith, who plays an eight-string guitar, is the more extravagant, arranging the music after the fashion of lute transcriptions (in which area Nigel North reigns supreme); Korhonen, like the superb Frank Bungarten, adds nothing while being faithful to both violin and guitar idioms.

The results on this second volume, which contains the three Partitas, are mixed. Korhonen’s phrasing and articulation are intelligent and musical, and the execution is clean and crisp. Sometimes the downstroke of the bow is imitated, as in the opening chords of the B minor Bourée; at other times, as in the Double of the B minor Allemande, a more flowing, guitaristic approach is adopted. But the tone can also be hard, the attack violent, as in the almost manic Corrente of the D minor Partita—in stark contrast to the gentle, spacious Sarabanda which follows.

There are more virtues than vices to be found here, to be sure, but the roots of both can be inferred from this statement of Korhonen’s: “A Baroque composer describes, whereas a Romantic composer expresses.”

Simon Thompson
MusicWeb International, September 2010

Finnish guitarist Timo Korhonen has already released his own arrangements of Bach’s solo violin sonatas. Now he turns his attention to the partitas and gives fascinating interpretations of these bottomless works. Any guitarist transcribing Bach has to contend with the spirit of Segovia but Korhonen manages convincingly to carve his own path in this music, even if he doesn’t quite shake off the shade of the Spanish master.

Naturally he exploits the full range of the guitar’s powers and so can do things that a violinist cannot, such as arpeggiating many of the broken chords, lending the music a very different feel: the opening Allemanda of the first partita sounds positively Spanish, for example...The extra harmonies lent by a guitar are exploited in the quicker elements and take us pretty far from the world of the unaccompanied violin. There is a lovely carefree element to the famous opening of the third partita, for example, the “held” notes spinning a lovely web around the music and creating an effect that is impossible with the violin. The same trick works beautifully in the Menuets. The great Chaconne from the second partita comes across very well, the interplay of the various lines being more easily delineated with the guitar; consequently the listener has a fuller sense of the astonishing counterpoint.

So this is certainly worth exploring if you’re willing to try the partitas on a guitar...

Phil Muse
Audio Video Club of Atlanta, August 2010

So what’s a “partita” anyway? It’s a funny thing, but nobody ever tells you what the Italian word means. Finnish guitarist Timo Korhonen does us that favor in the booklet notes to his invigorating account of Solo Violin Partitas 13 transcribed for the guitar, and it has significance for the way he approaches this music. For “partita,” going back to the older Italian word partia, can mean variation but it also signifies a game or match; for example, partita di calico is a football game.

That fits in with what Korhonen does here, both in terms of the challenge of the music and the artist’s highly imaginative, high energy response to it. These are, first of all, performances that are rhythmically alert at all times. They are expressive, but not in the Segovian manner of Bach transcription with thundering notes in the bass and with harmony notes added to color the figurations in keeping with the late Romantic ideal of tone color. On the contrary, Korhonen aims at a very idiomatic approach, as if these were not in fact his own transcriptions, but were as if Bach had actually written the original versions for the modern 6 string guitar itself.

The resulting sound is idiomatic, yes. The great majority of the choices Korhonen makes in essaying these charming works on the guitar are excellent, and he accomplishes the most complex contrapuntal relationships with an impressive technique that makes them seem less formidable than they really are. (Remember: it hasn’t been that many years since well intentioned Baroque scholars were wondering if Bach’s solo violin music could be accurately performed at all without the use of a curved bow, an “authentic” orthopedic appliance that thankfully seems to have fallen by the wayside.) As the artist observes, “A Baroque composer describes, whereas a Romantic composer expresses.” And therein lies the key to Korhonen’s approach...Like all good games, there is more than one way to play “Partita” and still keep to the general rules, and Bach shows us a different look in each of Partitas 13. No. 1 in B minor is in four movements: Allemande, Corrente, Sarabande, and a Bourrée in place of the usual gigue. Each movement is followed by a variantion known as its double. Korhonen sees this partita as the most overtly emotional of the set, expressing “shock, rage, and longing caused by unexpected loss.” He sees Partita No. 2 in D minor as a more consolatory work, expressing acceptance and a new direction in life, and Partita No. 3 in E major as “bursting with the power of life, gratitude, and love.” For what it’s worth, No. 2 does end with the immensely healing ciaccona (which interesting usurps the spotlight usually reserved in a suite for the moody Sarabande). Suite No. 3 is a fully integrated type of partita with a proper Prelude and a full complement of sprightly dances: Loure, Gavotte, Minuets I and II, Bourée, and Gigue, but no Srabande (and therefore, no slow movement). Whether one accepts Korhonen’s overview or not, it’s always surprising to me how moving the effect of Bach’s “pure” music can be.

Giv Cornfield
The New Recordings, Cliffs Classics, July 2010

The solo violin sonatas have been played and recorded on guitar many times over, but the Partitas are not that common. These are the artist’s own arrangements, and sound natural, if one can divorce the sound of the originals from one’s memory. I found the third Partita in E Major the most effective. If the monumental Chaconne of the second Partita sounds somewhat laboured, that is not the fault of the artist but rather the nature of the beast. Timo Korhonen certainly has the technique and musical instinct to bring off this tour de force. Bravo!

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