A satisfying performance of any one of Bach's six Sonatas and Partitas for Unaccompanied Violin is an awesome feat. The monumental chaconne that closes the second partita is by itself a more than adequate test of the abilities of even a first-rate violinist. Sergiu Luca is contributing to the celebration of Bach's 300th birthday anniversary by presenting all six of these masterpieces in two free concerts at the National Academy of Sciences auditorium.
Last night's first installment closed with Luca's secure and persuasive performance of that demanding chaconne, but it would be unfair to him to dwell on that movement alone. He brought great variety as well as immense skill to the program by treating each sonata or partita movement as a unique entity with its own impetus, difficulties and rewards.
Nonetheless, the three works played retained their overall identities. The Partita No. 3 in E was dominated by a pervasive rhythmic vitality totally appropriate to each of its dance movements. The Sonata No. 2 in A Minor was more introspective, particularly in its poignant opening movement and intellectually demanding fugue. Luca's approach to the Partita No. 2 in D Minor emphasized technical brilliance while maintaining the natural tonal richness and delicacy of his period violin.
The evening provided an altogether revealing view of Bach the composer and Luca the virtuoso performer. Tomorrow evening's continuation should be a no less rewarding experience.