Depending on which calendar you prefer (Julian or Gregorian), J.S. Bach’s birthday is either March 21 or March 31. I don’t get involved in these sort of controversies; I’m just happy he was born at all, and since it was 336 years ago, what’s ten days? Anyway, this seems like the perfect moment to showcase this brand-new version of the epic fifth movement—the Chaconne—of Bach’s Violin Partita No. 2, BWV 1004, written between 1717 and 1720.
Since Segovia—who premiered his guitar interpretation of the Chaconne in Paris in 1935, and first recorded it in 1947—the work has long been considered a sort of rite of passage for classical guitarists. It’s a a deeply emotional and layered work that requires incredible skill, subtlety, and commitment from the player. In the proper hands, it is magnificent.
This performance, by French guitarist Gérard Abiton, was only posted this third week of March 2021, so it’s fresh! (Thanks to David Tanenbaum for tipping me off!) And it is also the most dynamic and compelling interpretation I’ve heard in a while. Abiton’s pedigree includes studying with Alexandre Lagoya at the Paris Conservatoire and summer studies with Segovia, Abel Carlevaro, and John Williams; plus recordings dedicated to the works of Scarlatti, Turina, Ponce (three volumes), and Rodrigo. He’s a true virtuoso who brings all the gravitas the Chaconne requires. —Blair Jackson