I love music.

I write about the music I like and have purchased for the benefit of better understanding it and sharing my preferences with others.

Bach Lute Works, volume 1

#alttext# It was sometime in the mid-90s that I sat in music history class, music history 2, in fact, in which we cover the baroque era, when I was in college, Our guest for the day was Professor Paul O'Dette, and he had brought his lute. A large man, seemingly private and a tad quiet, he came in, sat in front of us, and had several binder's worth of music. He proceeded to talk about each piece, then, with huge gasps and gulps of air, he entranced us as his breath seemed to come out through his instrument, singing, if you will, notes a plenty. He played for us a variety of early baroque works for lute, and still to this day, it was a quite memorable experience. I've enjoyed my recordings by O'Dette with early baroque literature, such as Kapsberger, and his late Renaissance work as well. It was later that year I picked up Konrad Junghanel's recording of Bach's suites for the lute, finding this instrument louder and the playing coarser than O'Dette's. It was therefore an anticipation a couple of years ago when O'Dette released a first volume of Bach's works on Harmonia Mundi. The recording, right off the bat, loses something for me in the very open acoustic sound. For me, Bach's music for lute is intimate. Or maybe it's my memory of hearing O'Dette play in a small classroom. But the lute takes on a more twangy-tone in a medium acoustic like this one--you hear the reflections off hard walls. That quality aside, what about the interpretation? O'Dette isn't showing off here -- and he rarely does. He's kind of introspective, I gather, from his interpretations. They are, despite the acoustic space, almost private readings, technically clean and slow enough that he's showing you those cadences and progressions he prefers to savor. his Courante from BWV 995 has almost bouncy style to it. I found the next movement, a sarabande used in one of the cello suites, to be almost too slow. The double gavottes from 995 are played carefully, and in the repeats, O'Dette sticks to the score, avoiding embellishing the line the second time around. In a more relaxed movement such as this, I would have preferred a little noodling. The next work on the disc is BWV 1006a, yes, the famous violin partita, re-arranged. O'Dette's calm manner with the music, played on a delicate medium-sized lute, speaks to the universality of Bach's music (via time, via instrument, via mood) and comes across as a very relaxing rendition of the work. On the lute, the work loses the strident quality that sometimes comes across on violin. The disc ends with the G minor work, BWV 1011. For me, this is the strongest work on the disc, another re-working of a Bach violin sonata. Ultimately, the work is less successful on lute than on violin, and the thinness of the lute comes across especially. The tempi are also slower than one you're normally likely used to on violin. There's a richness to all of this music, so it doesn't take away from Bach's music. With headphones, your mind envelops around the sound of O'Dette's lute, and I found myself going back in time... with an instrument such as O'Dette's, you begin to appreciate the power of Bach's music (especially his lines and the harmony) and how delicate it is... with a less powerful instrument, Bach's music takes on delicacy. Having heard Hopkinson Smith on lute with Bach, and owning Junghanel, Nigel North, and Rolf Lislevand CDs, I am still not convinced I love Bach on the lute. Master O'Dette comes with his reading that's technically accomplished. Ultimately, however, he's less a showman than Lislevand. I'm leaning towards liking Bach on guitar better, despite the authenticity issue. If you want to enjoy Bach plucked, I might recommend Paul Galbraith's recordings over Mr. O'Dette.

Geminiani: Sonatas for Violoncello

Concerts avec plusieurs instruments, volume 3