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GRAMOPHONE (06/2017)
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Nonesuch 7559793920

Code-barres / Barcode : 0075597939200


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Reviewer: Charlotte Gardner

Bach arranged for cello, mandolin and double bass must be a first, so hats off to Yo‑Yo Ma, Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer for even thinking up this intriguing album. It’s also worth saying that these forces don't yield nearly so bass-heavy a sound as you might expect, not least because Ma is frequently to be found in his upper register.

The booklet-notes trumpet the ‘unexpected transparency’ of these transcriptions and this is certainly true, although in some places it feels as though there is perhaps a little too much air between the textures. Still, it’s swings and roundabouts. Take the opening Trio Sonata No 6 in G major, BWV530. Here, the opening Vivace's transparency remains on the interesting side of curious, all three musicians deft and delicate of touch, period-aware without being hair-shirted about it, always bringing a sense of ever-developing musical narrative, and their chamber alchemy a delight to listen in on. The ensuing Lento, however, feels slightly too sparse and a little heavy. Likewise, Wachet auf , BWV645, gains nothing from these forces, which is interesting given that its original incarnation is hardly a rich, close-textured affair. That said, one of the other chorale arrangements, Erbarm dich mein, O Herre Gott, BWV721, is one of the disc's triumphs with its late-night-jazz-club vibe, and Ma's pianissimo singing lines softly clashing with Thile's guitar strumming (a brief switch from the mandolin).

Ultimately I suspect opinion on this album will be so subjective that you need to listen and make up your own mind. What is at least indisputable is that the playing itself is very fine indeed.

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