Bach: Partita No 3 in E Major for unaccompanied violin, BWV 1006 - Joseph Lin
Bach: Partita No 1 in B Minor for unaccompanied violin, BWV 1002 - Joseph Lin
Bach: Partita No 2 in D Minor for unaccompanied violin, BWV 1004 - Joseph Lin
The Metropolitan Opera may have had its fair share of opera divas bailing out at the last minute lately, but the DC classical music scene hasn't been spared either as a few days ago we learned that Julia Fischer, who was scheduled to perform Bach's three partitas last night, had cancelled all of her US engagements because of a family matter. It was all the more frustrating as she is widely known as a superb Bach interpreter, but I decided not to let that new unexpected change of plan dampen my spirits and went to the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue in Chinatown ready to love Joseph Lin, the brave young man willing to tackle the challenging pieces with little notice, never mind that he has just wrapped a recording of them all. And really, who would object to hearing Bach twice in one week?
The partitas having been composed for unaccompanied violin, the soloist inevitably finds himself or herself standing in front of the audience sans the safety net that can sometimes provide an orchestra or a recital partner. Yikes! But this sink-or-swim situation can also be exhilaratingly rewarding for both the performer and the audience when everything comes together.
After a discreet and playful entrance from the back of the auditorium, Joseph Lin quickly proved that his modest introduction was hiding a ferociously talented musician who did not hesitate to assertively take charge of the whole concert. Right away his boyish smile, slim frame and Zen aura created a sharp and interesting contrast to his mature, elegant and widely inventive playing, and it eventually seemed a very natural combination.
Some movements of those partitas are well-known to regular classical music audiences because they are very popular concert encores. Such a favorite is the Gavotte en Rondeau from the Partita No 3, and Joseph Lin vividly expressed the vigor and grace of that old French dance. On the other hand, his Sarabande from the Partita No 1 was appropriately grave and thoughtful.
But, of course, the moment we were all waiting for was Bach's spell-binding Chaconne, the Himalaya for all violinists, which is a mind-boggling technical exercise as well as an emotionally draining feat. But Lin seemed unfazed, and after easily mastering the first four movements of the Partita's No 2, he grandly opened the fear-inspiring, 15-minute Chaconne and stayed on top of it until the very end, tearing through the score with fierceness and aplomb, proving one more time why such masterpieces are truly universal.
The delirious ovation that saluted his impressive achievement earned us an encore. As he rightfully pointed out, following the Chaconne is not easy, and only Bach would do. And so it did, with a beautifully subdued rendition of the Largo from the Sonata No 3 in C Major.