Bach with video accompaniment

By David Weininger

November 01, 2015

A musician’s full-scale encounter with Bach, at whatever stage on the artistic path it occurs, is a watershed event capable of upending not just his or her approach to Bach’s music, but an entire artistic gestalt. That is what happened to Gil Shaham, a process that began about a decade ago. Like every violin student, he’d learned Bach’s solo sonatas and partitas, but he’d never felt ready to perform them in public.
Finally, “I decided I would make a concerted effort — no pun intended — to play them, thinking that if I don’t start now, it won’t ever feel more comfortable,” Shaham said last week from Chapel Hill, N.C., where he was in residence at the University of North Carolina.
Like others before him, Shaham became obsessed with Bach’s six mysterious creations, church sonatas alternating with dance suites. The fruits of this process, which can be heard — and seen — when he plays them at Sanders Theatre on Sunday, involved both turning back the clock to Bach’s time and adding an entirely modern aspect to his performance.