Oh, hell yeah. This right here.
It is only partial praise to say that I dig Moran Wasser’s arrangement here; the source material is such a solid masterpiece that any arranger would seem to have nearly unlimited freedom to stretch out and experiment without breaking anything. Nonetheless, a convincing job adapting the extended pitches; absolutely lovely tone; and well played. Bookmarked!
My first real exposure to J.S. Bach’s Partita for Violin #2 (aka simply Ciaccona, Chaconne, etc.) was Bert Lams’ wonderful arrangement for the California Guitar Trio, and in many ways I still prefer much of Bert’s phrasing and accents to anything else I’ve since heard.
What’s interesting to my ears, here, is that the CGT‘s timbres, produced by flatpicking steel strings on the “plasticy, plinky” Ovation guitars with which they began their adventure back in 1991, certainly contrast dramatically with Wasser’s Yepes-pattern extended range classical guitar, played fingerstyle. The contrast deepens as well when you consider that the tonal range of the CGT’s six-string Guitar Craft-tuned guitars (C2 to G4, open) is actually greater than the tonal range of the usual Yepes tuning (D2 to E4), spread out over its ten strings–although I can see the eleventh, harp-style string on Wasser’s instrument here, and haven’t tried to figure out exactly what he may have done with that or even the rest of his tuning–so who knows? Vive la différence, right? What a wonderful world that we have both editions to admire.
And hell, the piece was originally written for solo violin, after all, and while expanded-range orchestrations are wonderful and lovely, you don’t exactly…lose much, staying within the original pitch range, which bottoms out at G3. I’ve expounded before on this marvelous and maddening clip of Mike Marshall, informally playing the piece on mandolin (which is tuned identically to violin):
Simply lovely–even in the bootleg-informal setting, with the maddening gap (sigh).
And, just to round things out, why not include a clip of Rachel Podger, playing the piece on a baroque violin, in an attempt to get as close as possible to what Johannes Brahms might have heard, when he was inspired to say of Bach’s composition:
On one stave, for a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the excess of excitement and earth-shattering experience would have driven me out of my mind.
That would have been a heckuva calling card for Bach, had he been alive to use it.
So, do you get the feeling that somehow I like this piece?
(I know, that’s some low-hanging fruit. right there. Guilty as charged.)
UPDATE: By further happy accident I also ran across this wonderful performance, with excellent visuals of the player’s hands.
I must can haz bookmark. 🙂