Review: Violinist Mark Kaplan’s ‘J.S. Bach Sonatas and Partitas’

By Cristina Schreil

Violinist Mark Kaplan is hardly the first to present an album of these beloved works—in fact, he himself has done it before—but there is something especially engrossing in this performance. As if conjuring a whole atmosphere of Bach, the sound is full and sumptuous with a balanced ambience throughout Kaplan’s superb interpretation.

He performs on the “Le Marquis Doria” Stradivari, fittingly created the very year of Bach’s birth in 1685. Throughout, he seems to have drilled down to the core of Bach’s intention. Rapid passages, especially in the Fugas, sing with crisp definition and energy; slower ones are shaped with an expert nuance. Even longtime listeners of this material may find themselves hanging onto Kaplan’s every stroke.


A professor of violin at Indiana University Bloomington’s Jacobs School of Music, Kaplan released an album of the complete sonatas and partitas in the early ’90s. Since then, he explains in the detailed liner notes, he’s taught and performed them many, many times, lending to a deeper connection with the repertoire. It feels as such; phrases seem to develop almost spontaneously.

“This is music that I have lived with all my life,” Kaplan writes. He shares that one of his earliest memories is of listening to his father, an amateur violinist, practicing the E major Partita as Kaplan was “playing with my toys on the floor.” It’s a charming detail that matches the affection many are sure to have for this recording.

9460_cover_rgb_large[1]J.S. Bach Sonatas and Partitas
Mark Kaplan