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Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Fretwork, Bach's Goldberg Variations Arranged for a Consort of Viols

The sheer truth of the matter is that Johann Sebastian Bach's Goldberg Variations, like many of his other keyboard works, has such brilliant part writing that it readily lends itself to arrangement for different instrumental combinations. That is brought home forcibly with Richard Boothby's version for a consort of viols, performed movingly by the group Fretwork for I believe a 2-CD set (my download review copy is 90-minutes of wonderful Bach) on Harmonia Mundi. There have been versions of other Bach works for expanded instrumentation, his "Art of the Fugue" and "Musical Offering" come to mind as especially well done in previous years. This Fretwork recording earns a top position as one of the most distinctive of them all.

The special early music archaicism of the consort gives this music a radical new resonance, bringing out the parts in colorful pastels and throwing in relief the distinctive intertwining of part with part.

It convinces me that Bach's architectural keyboard counterpoint retains and even increases its brilliance if arranged for the right sort of instruments and played with expressive care, which is certainly the case here.

It is a joyous experience. Bach adepts and general music lovers will find this recording a sweet revelation I would think. I did.

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