WORKS: Sonatas and Partitas, BWV 1001-1006 (transcribed for lute by North) Vol. 1: BWV 1001, 1002, 1004
PERFORMER: Nigel North (lute)
CATALOGUE NO: CKD 013 DDD (distr. New Note)
Bach appears to have had little interest in the lute. The small amount of music he did compose for it was mostly transcribed from pieces he had previously written for other instruments. Taking the hint, many lutenists have made their own transcriptions from Bach and Nigel North is the latest in the line. To judge from this disc, he’s done a superb job of turning Bach’s Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin (BWV 1001-1006) into credible lute music – albeit with a few minor revisions. North’s most significant change in this first volume, which comprises the First Sonata and Partita plus the Second Partita, is to transpose BWV 1002 from B minor to A minor.
The lute may not have the power or the expressive range of the violin, but it does provide clarity and a beautifully limpid sound. Hearing these works on the lute perhaps makes it easier to appreciate Bach’s genius – there may be less colour but the geometry is pellucid. North brings a fresh sparkle to the music, though I doubt whether any lutenist could do full justice to the epic Chaconne from BWV 1004, which taxes violinists to the limit. Still, a bold venture and highly enjoyable. Graham Lock