The good old Johann Sebastian is back with a touch of bluegrass in the company of three very accomplished musicians. Cellist YoYo Ma, bass player Edger Meyer and the mandolin (and guitar) player Chris Thile have come together to present this gentle beauty. And yes, the presence of mandolin adds the bluegrass feel.
Bach is recognized as the greatest master of harmony and counterpoint of all time. In the words of Thile himself, "All arguments about who's the greatest musician start after Bach."In his 65 years, the baroque giant, produced an immense body of work (over 1000 compositions), most of them dedicated to the church.
For this album, the three musicians havetaken 17 compositions from the great Bach ocean and rearranged them for strings section, as they were written for keyboards (except the closing Sonata which was composed for Viola da Gamba, cello’s ancestor) by the master. The technical prowess of the three musicians gets reflected in the arrangements – Meyer’s double bass gives the appropriate grounding to the sounds of Ma &Thile, while still participating in the counterpoints.
Each virtuoso gets to shine independently as well. Ma’s cello shines hauntingly in Ichrufzudir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 639asThile& Meyer blur into the backdrop. And Thile’s mandolin flourishes emphatically in Fugue No. 18 in E Minor, BWM 548.
My current favourite is the last track on side A, a rendition of Wachet Auf, Ruft Uns Die Stimme, BWV 645, also known as Sleeper’s Wake, one of the popular Bach compositions. Ma here, provides a sonorous counterpoint to the plucking of strings by Thile& Meyer.
The music of Bach is pretty universal and a great unifier. Despite its complex counterpoints and harmonies it’s accessible to all and open to several interpretations (remember Toccata and Fugue in D Minor tackled by the fusion rock band Sky?). In the hands of these three giants, this double LP is one such beautiful, light-hearted and contemporary interpretation. A must have for any classical music lover, although purists may have a different point of view.
The album also serves as a great entry point for the millennials to get intothe music of Johann Sebastian Bach. That is, if they want to.
Genre: Western Classical
Producer: Steven Epstein Label: Nonesuch / Warner
Vinyl Courtesy: Sony DADC.
Reviewed by Meraj Hasan
Meraj Hasan is a Mumbai based communication professional (and an amateur poet/musician) with a passion for listening to music the vinyl way. His 25 year old Technics turntable along with a humble collection of LPs across genres like Classic rock, Classical, Blues and Jazz (amongst others) are his prized possessions.
He can be reached at +91 9833410791 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org