JS Bach

Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: JS Bach
LABELS: Hungaroton
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach
WORKS: Lute Suites Nos 1-4
PERFORMER: András Csáki (guitar)
CATALOGUE NO: HCD 32772

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We talk of ‘Four Lute Suites’, but two were written for other instruments (BWV 995 is the Cello Suite No. 5 in C, BWV1011, and BWV1006a is the Violin Partita No. 3) and two for some unknown lute-imitating keyboard. Though Bach owned a lute, some unplayable passages in his ‘lute’ music suggest he didn’t exactly know it inside out. So any recording is necessarily a compromise arrangement, and Hungarian guitarist András Csáki’s succeeds

Csáki’s playing is impeccable, his crisp, silvery lute-like tone recorded in a brooding, resonant acoustic. There’s subtle elasticity and variety of colour, with the walking-bass aspect of the contrapuntal lines often prominent (eg BWV 996’s Bourrée, BWV 997’s Prelude). Ornamentation is colourful and well-planned, judiciously mixing ‘guitaristic’ slurs and ‘harpsichordistic’ cross-string trills. Sprightly dance feel is never far away: it’s human, not abstract, Bach.

I’ll probably still reach first for Göran Söllscher’s 1980s Deutsche Grammophon recording (on 11-string guitar) when I want to hear this wonderful music, with its mood range from profound meditation to fugal ecstasy. But – despite a dodgy edit at track 17/18 – Csáki’s is a fine guitar option for these suites.

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Rob Ainsley