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Tacet boasts that they made this recording in 1989 using “cult“ microphones from the 1940s, microphones that they say are particularly suited to recording the violin: “valved“ (tubed) Neumann U47s. I'm no audiophile, but I can hear this: while cheap speakers rebelled at cleanly reproducing this powerful yet reverberant recording, it sounded fine over good speakers. Over a golden ear system who knows how good it could sound, but Tacet's churchlike Sonics mask some of what the U47s could accomplish. For example, the second beats in the Gigue of Partita No. 2 are almost swallowed up by the reverb from the accented downbeats.

Here's what I care about: Florin Paul is a most impressive player. Romanian, born in 1958, he studied with Stefan Gheorghiu and Wolfgang Marschner. A fine point of technique: Paul uses lots of open strings (without wolfnotes), which separates him from the New York/Indiana axis of violinists. He has taken top prizes in a number of competitions; I'm not aware of any significant appearances in the U.S. With his big tone, clean bowing, attractive vibrato, and fine intonation, he tends to luxuriate in this music, perhaps influenced by the acoustics and the fine 1689 Stradivarius he plays on. His interpretations value seductive sound over formal rigor. In the Partita No. 1, except for the Sarabande, main movements are slow, meaning that the Doubles, taken at normal tempos, “double“ more than most; the Double to the Corrente really sparkles yet it's not an empty showpiece. In the Sarabande, Paul lets the notes speak evenly and clearly and he keeps up a stately pulse; the Double is also graciously phrased. Partita No. 2: the Allemande is very legato, and Paul's lavalike tone smooths it out even more (compare Szigeti), but there is welcome variety, since the Corrente is rapid and etched, although the dotted rhythm could have been emphasized more (again, the resonant acoustic perhaps influenced Paul's articulation). The Chaconne takes a slow 15:46;

Paul maintains harmonic integrity by holding double and triple stops as long as possible. He doesn't trill at the end. The Partita No. 3 is also beautifully played—Paul takes his time in the Preludio—but again, while the sound impresses with its enveloping size and richness, the reverberation works against the sort of lift and point that Szigeti or Heifetz gave these dance movements. For the violin lover this disc demonstrates a talent of the first order.

David K. Nelson

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