Bach: Six Cello Suites Transcribed For Guitar/Von Wangenheim
Johann Sebastian Bach
Andreas von Wangenheim
Number of Discs:
2 Hours 8 Mins.
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Notes and Editorial Reviews
(arr. Wangenheim )
Andreas von Wangenheim (gtr)
ARTE NOVA 675220 (2 CDs: 128:12)
Although every reviewer has limitations relative to his or her reviewing qualifications, usually it would be inappropriate to state them in a review. However, if the limitations will skew the review but will not preclude a useful review, the reviewer should state the limitations. If the limitations are significant enough to preclude a
meaningful review, the reviewer should abstain from reviewing.
I am quite familiar with the Bach cello suites, having delved into them over a period of about 60 years. However, I am not especially familiar with guitar music or guitar-playing except for three instances: the guitar is my son’s and my son-in-law’s instrument (they each abandoned the piano early on), I love the Mahler Seventh (prominent guitar and mandolin parts in the Serenade (
) fourth movement), and I am quite familiar with renowned guitarist Sharon Isbin’s father’s nuclear engineering textbook. Thus, this review will be that of an occasional guitar listener and a guitar-sound enjoyer, but a Bach cello suite non-cellist student.
I am wary of transcriptions made by persons other than the composer. Such transcriptions can be valuable teaching tools, but they can also distort the composer’s intent. One of the purposes of a review of a transcription should be to ascertain whether the composer’s musical ideas have been adequately retained in the transcription. First, I note the transpositions made in five of the six suites: No.1 from G to D (a fifth), No. 2 from D minor to A minor (a fifth), No. 3 from C to A (a sixth), No. 4 from E? to B? (a fifth; the information on the jewel case and in the track list in the insert booklet says “B Major,” but this uses the German equivalent of B?— remember, B? is B and B is H in German notation; this peculiarity enabled Bach to encrypt his name using the sequence BACH in the final contrapunctus of his “Art of the Fugue”), and No. 5 from C Minor to A Minor (a sixth). No.6 remains in D (the Sixth Suite was composed for a five-stringed instrument, the character of which enabled Wangenheim to retain the original key). A transcription made by the composer might transpose the key from the original for reasons related to the range of the new instrument(s), to the tonal qualities of the new instrument(s), or to the playability on the new instrument(s). Bach made many transcriptions of his works, and he often transposed keys when doing so. One can presume that Bach would not transcribe any of his own compositions if the transcription caused a distortion of the musical idea—change, yes; distortion, no. But Wangenheim is not Bach, nor does he claim to be, so I presume that the transpositions are based on his knowledge of his instrument (known to be supreme) and his understanding of the music. This is all discussed very clearly by Wangenheim in the information insert.
I agree with Wangenheim that this music is eminently transcribable to the classical guitar. The polyphonic character of these suites is retained in Wangenheim’s transcriptions. Here are these six magnificent cello suites listenable in a different, and very beautiful and musically informative, format. Artur Schnabel said that great music is greater than it can be played. I think this can be broadened to say that great music can have the potential to be extended beyond its specified instruments. The Preludes in the A-Minor/D-Minor and the D-Major/D-Major Suites are especially successful in Wangenheim’s hands. However, I have a few interpretive complaints. The Preludes in the A-Major/C-Major, D-Major/G-Major, and A-Minor/C-Minor Suites, and the Allemande in the D-Major/D-Major Suite are played with excessive rubato. The Prelude of the B?-Major/E?-Major Suite is played with a continuity that makes it sound like an inversion of the C-Major Prelude of Book I of the
. The second Gavotte of the D-Major/D-Major Suite is played with a dotted rhythm not from Bach’s pen.
Most repeats are observed. Exceptions are the second repeats in the A-Minor/D-Minor Suite Sarabande (a peculiar omission), the D-Major/D-Major Suite Allemande and both Gavottes (the latter a peculiar omission), and the A-Minor/C-Minor Suite Allemande. The sound quality is excellent except for occasional squeeks and clicks that are normally present in classical guitar playing. Within my guitar music knowledge limitations, these performances are excellent except for the interpretive complaints.
I recommend this disc to guitar music fans who don’t know much about Bach or about classical music in general, as an introduction to Bach. And I recommend this disc to classical guitar music fans as an example of the versatility of the guitar as an instrument that can transcend the confines of the original instrumentation. Finally, I recommend this disc to all who have an interest in Bach. As an epilogue, cellist Janos Starker’s recording of these six suites is my favorite, by far. Starker has a clean tone, and he does not engage in sonic theatrics. He merely plays Bach, and includes enough of his own ideas to supply uniqueness without distortion.
FANFARE: Burton Rothleder
Works on This Recording
Average Customer Review: ( 1 Customer Review )
Beautiful Recording October 5, 2014
By Jeff B. See All My Reviews
"I can't praise this recording enough. Its just great playing! Very musical. Excellent phrasing. I have listened to this probably 20 times and never tire of it."