KUNIKO - J.S. Bach: Solo Works for Marimba - BBC Music Magazine

RECORDING: 4 stars 

More often than not, Bach will prevail on practically any instrument you care to throw at him. The message, so often, transcends the medium; and if the sound of the harpsichord reminded Sir Thomas Beecham of two skeletons copulating on a tin roof, Kuniko's voluptuous marimba evokes the happy couple sharing a post-coital cigarette. Warm, enveloping, it cloaks the music in an all-consuming glow that isn't itself problematic, save that it lures her into a fantasy world where, as her liner notes tell us, the G major Cello Suite suggests 'jumping up and down like fish in the womb of Mother Nature'. The C major Violin Sonata's Adagio — played with ethereally elevated poise — is the 'stairway to a pure, white heaven'. And although she identifies the primacy of dance in the cello suites, it's rarely carried through thanks to a riot of micro-management underlining the diminishing returns of expressive over-egging. The Baroque suite embodies unity in diversity, but Kuniko nurtures a surfeit of the former with precious little of the latter. BWV 1007's Allemande and Courante are cut from the same measured cloth; lost in reverie the Sarabande strays far from its dance model; while the minuets are scarcely on nodding terms with three beats in a bar. The sheer technical elan she brings to the violin fugues, however, is jaw-dropping, and BWV 1003's concluding Allegro is despatched with a much-needed crystalline purposefulness. After 'suite' indulgence, it's a breath of fresh air! 

BBC Music Magazine
01 October 2017