COMPOSERS: JS Bach
LABELS: Harmonia Mundi
ALBUM TITLE: JS Bach
WORKS: Lute Works, Vol. 1: Pièces pour la Luth à Monsieur Schouster; Partita in E; Sonata in G minor
PERFORMER: Paul O’Dette (lute)
CATALOGUE NO: HMU 907438
Paul O’Dette is the first to admit that we can’t be sure Bach actually played the lute. His ‘lute works’ fall off the bottom of the normal 13-course instrument unless they are transposed upwards, are written in keyboard notation rather than lute tablature, and are laid out in a distinctly ‘keyboard-friendly’ way. Bach so admired the sound, however, that he had a ‘Lautenwerk’ made for himself, a keyboard instrument with gut strings which one of his pupils said ‘could almost deceive even professional lutenists’.
The pieces here are expanded arrangements, largely by Bach himself, of music for solo cello and violin, so confining them within the finger-board and 13 strings of a lute is a huge technical challenge. O’Dette responds magnificently, playing with a sense of total ease – fluent, expressive, sensitively balancing contrapuntal lines. He’s also delightfully flexible in dance movements: a Gavotte en Rondeaux (BWV1006a) wittily wayward in its reappearances, a Courante (BWV995) enlivened with dancing notes inégales. The recording, in a warm acoustic, is excellent – intimate but spared the clatter and scrape of fingers on strings. It’s hard to imagine a better start to O’Dette’s on-going Bach project.Georg Pratt