The Strad's experts evaluate the latest string recordings
Bach: The Well-Tempered Clavier Book 1 BWV846–69
A new string arrangement of a Bach keyboard classic
Friday, 01 March 2013
UPSOLUTE MUSIC RECORDS UMR 125 (TWO DISCS)
In 1994 the Modern Quartet released its leader Joerg Widmoser’s string-quartet arrangement of Bach’s Art of Fugue. Now Book 1 of The Well-Tempered Clavier appears, this time on the jazz violinist, composer and arranger’s own artist-led label.
There’s little for purists to object to as these are almost all straight transcriptions (no recomposing, and certainly no swinging à la Loussier). Indeed, it’s revealing to hear Bach’s counterpoint opened up in a way that is impossible on a keyboard. The playing is well blended, stylistically aware and captured in sound that is clear, natural and nicely distributed across the sound stage. And the strings’ sustaining ability brings a novel drone-like pastoral quality to the E major Prelude and similarly to the G minor Prelude.
If you were looking for gripes you’d hear a palm-court quality in the pizzicato accompaniment to the D major Prelude – though its relentless semiquaver upper line is a minor feat if, as it appears, it is played throughout only by Widmoser. The familiar between-the-hands, broken-chord figuration of the C major Prelude is perhaps ill-advisedly reconfigured and just occasionally we lose the grandiloquence of the final flourishes that close certain of the Preludes. But overall, Bach lovers are unlikely to be disappointed.
From the March 2013 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.