Bojan Čičić: On Tour
Review: Bojan Čičić touring across the UK and Europe until June 2024. Tour details here.
[Disclosure:Bojan Čičić: provided me with tickets to this concert for the purposes of this review.]
Croatian born Bojan Čičić, one of the world’s leading early music concert violinists, has started his UK and European concert tour. On this tour, depending on which concert you go to, you can hear Čičić performing a varied repertoire – from Bach through to Richter’s Four Seasons.
I was lucky enough to see Čičić in the intimate setting of Christ Church Cathedral at his concert in Oxford. In this concert, Čičić played a selection of his beloved Bach Sonatas and Partitas for unaccompanied violin. It was a pure delight.
It’s not an over statement to say that Bach’s unaccompanied Sonatas and Partitas are some of the most significant compositions for violin (or indeed any instrument) in the history of classical music.
Written in the early 18th century, these pieces showcase Bach's unparalleled mastery of counterpoint, melody, and emotional depth. The compositions’ technical difficulty places a heavy burden on a performer – and being unaccompanied, are about as exposed as you’re ever going to get.
It’s just you, your violin and your audience.
Successfully performing these pieces in a concert setting requires the highest levels of technical virtuosity, understanding, and bravery.
It has become the contemporary fashion for performers to put their own stamp on these pieces. For the audience, this can result in an experience that’s quite different to the music, as it’s written. While I think there’s a place for this type of Bach interpretation, in my opinion, there is nothing that beats a historically informed performance of Bach.
Čičić’s historically informed performance of Bach is beautiful, delicate and mellow. It is obvious that he approaches Bach in the spirit of a humble student – performing the music exactly as written and clearly spending time researching how Bach would have wanted it to sound. This approach, coupled with the sweetness and depth of Čičić’s Baroque violin, means that his performance is as close to a pure Bach experience as it is possible to get. It’s quite something to hear the mathematical precision of the music giving rise to a very emotionally charged performance.
What made the concert that I attended so especially intimate was that in between the performances, Čičić talked about the pieces and his relationship to them. It was very moving to hear that Čičić often gets so emotional playing, particularly the Partita No. 2 in D Minor (my own favourite), that he often has difficulty finishing the performance. Watching Čičić remind himself to keep some sort of emotional distance so he could continue playing, was something rather special.
Čičić’s grand tour carries him through to mid 2024 and I’m confident in predicting that any of his performances will be a fountain of pure beauty.
If you enjoyed reading this review, you may also enjoy reading my review of the concerts of Baroque orchestra, Instruments of Time and Truth, of which Čičić is concert master here. If you'd like to read more reviews of Bach concerts, you can find them here.