Monday, 13 November 2017

Bach - Cello Suites Vols 1&2 - Grigoyan (bartione guitar)

Rating: 3/5

A little disappointing

The Bach Cello Suites played on a baritone guitar is an interesting idea, but I'm afraid it doesn't work as well as it should here.  The baritone guitar with its lower tuning ought to be an ideal instrument for transcribing the Cello Suites, and in many ways it is.  The depth and remarkable sustain produce a lovely sound, although the sustain on the bass notes does make the effect a little blurred at times.  I do have two reservations, though.

Firstly, the transcriptions are pretty pedestrian.  As far as I can tell they stick very closely to Bach's original cello score, which in a way is commendable, but it doesn't make use of the guitar's ability to play and hold chords.  In really good lute or theorbo transcriptions, a little added harmony really moulds these pieces to the instrument (I'm thinking of Nigel North, Pascal Montailhet and others).  A little of this would have helped a lot.

More seriously, the interpretations don't really do justice to the music.  Slava Gigoryan is plainly a very good guitarist, but he doesn't really capture the sense of dance which runs through the Cello Suites (which are suites of dances, after all).  Just to take one example, the Courante of the Third Suite, should flow freely and flexibly, but there is a hint of stiffness about it here so that it sound a little like a formal exercise rather than a joyful dance.  I found this in a lot of places.

I'm sorry to be critical of a laudable enterprise, but for me this doesn't quite work musically.  I think there is a good recording to be made of the Cello Suites on baritone guitar, but in spite of some good aspects, this isn't really it.

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