Bach: Lute Suites in G minor, BWV 995, & in E, BWV 1006a; Partita in C minor, BWV 997; Fugue in G minor, BWV 1000

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Naïve Astrée
WORKS: Lute Suites in G minor, BWV 995, & in E, BWV 1006a; Partita in C minor, BWV 997; Fugue in G minor, BWV 1000
PERFORMER: Rolf Lislevand (lute)
CATALOGUE NO: E 8807
Lislevand approaches Bach from a fascinating standpoint. Where most Baroque solo music was written by performers initially for themselves to play, Bach was not a lutenist – he must first have heard the music in its other manifestations, as Cello Suite (the source of BWV 995) or Violin Partita (BWV 1006a), or else by playing it on his specially invented lute-harpsichord. Performance on lute therefore relied on the intervention of others, using their own lute tablature transcriptions of Bach’s original staff notation. Lislevand plays from these transcriptions, revealing a host of detailed changes – additional ornaments, chords sustained by re-striking, sometimes arpeggiated downwards after a rising spread (BWV 995, Prelude). Lislevand’s virtuosity is impressive, though the rhythmic heritage of dance movements is sometimes sacrificed for an impassioned, pliant pulse.

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Some arrestingly beautiful sounds include retuned strings in BWV 997, allowing a Spanish guitarists’ technique, ‘campanelas’, whereby whole scales can be played on rich, open strings. The same Partita lacks its magnificent fugue: too hard to be worth transcribing by Bach’s lutenist acquaintances, Lislevand suggests.

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The recording is close, from the player’s rather than the listener’s perspective. The sound is big, at times clouded by harmonically unrelated resonances and by the noise of calloused finger-tips sliding squeakily along gut strings. George Pratt