One of today s 'popes' of early and baroque lute playing, Hopkinson Smith returns to the magic masterpieces of Bach and records the renowned Suites BWV 1007, 1008 and 1009, transcribed by himself for the German theorbo... Bach was a musical ecologist, the masterful recycler of his own compositions, arranging more than a few from one instrument or combination of instruments to another. Many of his works seem conceived on a somewhat abstract plane, above and beyond any specific instrument, and it was completely natural for the pragmatic 18th-century mind and ear to adapt them to the instrument of its choice. Among the so-called official lute works of Bach, there exist two such adaptations: from the solo violin repertoire, the Third Partita, BWV 1006, becomes BWV 1006a for the lute, and the Fifth Cello Suite is transformed into the Lute Suite in G minor, BWV 995. Of course, lutenists had been adapting music for their instrument for centuries. More than half of the continental lute music of the Renaissance is made up of adaptations of vocal works. In the French baroque, Robert de Visée couldn t stop making transcriptions for his theorbo of orchestral and keyboard works by his contemporaries. The great 18th-century German lutenist, Sylvius Weiss, a friend of Bach s, was said to have played violin concertos directly on the lute. These examples of adaptations are not given as a kind of justification for the present project as if the idea needed to be defended historically. It is more to guide the modern musical thinker (who sometimes knows more about authenticity than did the musicians of former times) to the state of experimentation and discovery that is completely natural for the musician: one sits alone with one s instrument without a score, playing melodies and harmonies that one has heard here or there and making them one s own.
We hear an increased maturity of thought allied to the introspective that was always a hallmark of Smith s playing... Smith is at his searchingly expressive best; but evening the quicker dances he offer a melancholic ambivalence that is wholly satisfying. --William Yeoman, Gramophone August 2013
Perf (4/5) **** / Rec (5/5) ***** For anyone knowing these suites well, this version will prove totally riveting... The recording is intimate without becoming oppressive... Smith s playing is profoundly sensitive. --George Pratt, BBC Music Magazine September 2013