Martin is working on a piece of music throughout the GQ series and I never name it, but I definitely had a specific piece in mind. I am not deeply knowledgeable about classical music or musicians, but I know what I like, and I absolutely love the Bach partitas and sonatas for solo violin, especially Partita No. 2 in D Minor and its challenging chaconne.
I have recordings of these works by a variety of musicians, and originally the version of the chaconne I had in mind for Martin was by Lara St. John, a favorite of long standing. I searched on YouTube to find video of her or anyone else playing the chaconne, and I came across this:
I’d never heard of James Ehnes. With his brown suit and conservative haircut, he looked more like an insurance salesman than an artist to my critical eye. My expectations were low when I hit play.
OH MY GOD. Plaintive, sobbing notes full of longing, played with precision. It is more than a little sexy to me! Every time I listen to this (and I listen to it a lot), at the 6:30 mark I always have to actually stop what I’m doing and watch him play.
Mr. Ehnes performed with the symphony here last year, although unfortunately he didn’t play Bach. But I took binoculars so I could watch his hands and was as excited as a tween at a One Direction concert. I’ve got his studio recordings of both this Bach and the Elgar I actually saw him play, and while the recordings are beautiful and among my favorites, I think he’s a performer whose playing becomes much more expressive and impressive in the presence of an audience.
Anyway, I am definitely not claiming that Martin would play this terribly difficult piece nearly this well, but only that this is what he would have in his head; this would be the ideal version he would be attempting to match or surpass when he practiced the piece.