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Johann Paul von Westhoff: Sei partita a violino senza basso accompagnato

By Gunar Letzbor

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By Gunar Letzbor. By Johann Paul von Westhoff (1656-1705). Classical. CD. Naxos #A354. Published by Naxos (NX.A354).

Item Number: NX.A354

ISBN 8.03E+12.

Two details in the career of Johann Paul von Westhof (1656-1705) draw our attention to him and his solo violin suites. First, he was one of the leading violin virtuosos of his time who, in his later years, served at the Weimar court of Duke Johann Ernst of Saxe-Weimar along with the teenaged Johann Sebastian Bach. Second, he is the composer of the earliest collection of suites for the unaccompanied violin, printed at 1696. Westhoff was therefore not only a violinist of wide renown and the first to conceive a cycle of unaccompanied violin suites, but also a likely inspiration for Bach's own violin playing and his eventual sonatas and partitas for unaccompanied violin. Westhoff's roots lay in the seventeenth-century German school of virtuoso violinists. Early in the century, violin playing was dominated by Italians and was disseminated northward by virtuosos such as Carlo Farina and Giovanni Battista Buonamente, who made their careers north of the Alps or visited there. In response to this impetus, German violinists imitated and then surpassed the Italians, raising violin technique to unprecedented heights by incorporating ever higher left-hand positions, more complex bow strokes, and a predilection for chord playing. These six Partitas are performed by Gunar Letzbor, who has already explored Partitas by Johann Joseph Vilsmayr in his exploration of violin music pre-Bach.

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