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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Extraordinarily Beautiful Performance in Extraordinarily Beautiful Sound, 25 Feb 2013
By 
J Scott Morrison (Middlebury VT, USA) - See all my reviews
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First, I must admit that I have a strange quirk: I'm not particularly attracted to the sound of plucked instruments -- guitars, lutes, harps -- but for some reason, which I think I can discern, this album of the first three Bach lute suites (so often played nowadays by cellists) attracts me like just about no other plucked-instrument album I've ever heard. Needless to say, Hopkinson Smith is a master of his craft and art; it's hard to imagine anyone doing a better job of playing this music. But perhaps the main reason I am drawn to this performance is that it is played on the theorbo, and particularly, as on this disc, the German theorbo with its thirteen (or sometimes more) courses of strings, the lower-toned of which are double-strung, that is to say, tuned in octaves. The German instrument differs from the more common French/Italian lute (sometimes called the chitarrone) in that those double strung courses give the instrument's lower tones a nobler, richer sound. And this is what particularly appeals to me.

All that said, one needn't say too much about the thrice-familiar Bach lute/cello suites. They are among the glories of music. Hopkinson Smith gives them a a fittingly glorious reading, intimate and emotionally expressive. There is little indication of the effort of playing them, which is so common for cellists who have to play lots of awkward double-stops, and so the music flows seemingly effortlessly and mellifluously.

This CD, and its companion of Suites 3-6, are a treasure.

Scott Morrison
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Bach transcriptions, 10 May 2013
By 
Sid Nuncius (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: J.S. Bach: Lute Suites nos. 1, 2 & 3 (Audio CD)
This disc contains Hopkinson Smith's own transcriptions of the first three of Bach's Cello Suites, played on the German theorbo. Smith explains in his excellent notes that this is a theorbo (a larger cousin of the lute) with double courses on the bass strings, giving a deep, resonant sound. It is a lovely disc.

Hopkinson Smith is a master of the whole lute family and has been at the forefront of its music for decades. This is well up to his normal excellent standard. The transcriptions themselves are very good, adding harmonies to the lines sparingly and choosing to play just the single cello line quite often. I found this a very effective approach and Bach's music shines through the whole of the recording. Smith's playing is, of course, superb. It is quietly virtuosic, sounding wholly unforced and natural, and brings a sweet, almost guitar-like quality from his instrument. The sound of the theorbo is lovely but I have to say that I didn't find it especially deep or resonant - there is a somewhat deeper and richer sound on Pascal Monteilhet's theorbo recording Bach/De Visée: Suites for Theorbo and Nigel North produces almost as rich a sound on the lute Bach on the Lute. (This isn't a complaint, just an observation after the German theorbo's sound was such an important part of the decision to record these pieces.)

You can't go wrong with this disc of beautiful music played by an absolute master. I think I still marginally prefer North and Monteilhet's versions, but it's just tiny things like their slightly more restrained use of rubato and that's purely a matter of personal taste. This is unquestionably a five-star disc and very warmly recommended. It's excellent.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cello suites played on the lute, NOT lute suites., 19 Mar 2013
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B. Arthur "Brian" (UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: J.S. Bach: Lute Suites nos. 1, 2 & 3 (Audio CD)
For your information, these Hopkinson Smith recordings are of Bach's 'cello suites 1, 2 & 3 arranged by Hopkinson Smith for the lute and NOT Bach's lute suites which have BWV numbers 995 - 1000 inclusive, plus 1006A. Hopefully Amazon will correct the error and make my comments redundant.

That said, Hopkinson Smith is a very fine player. I own his recordings of Bach's lute music (most of which was probably written for keyboard. Bach owned a lautenwerk, or gut strung harpsichord which he used to simulate the lute. He owned a couple of lutes too.) The actual lute suites include Bach's own arrangement of his 'cello suite no. 5 which is excellent in Hopkinson Smith's version so I am sure this recording of the 'cello suites 1, 2 & 3 on the lute will be of the same quality.

You might also like to check out Nigel North's wonderful recordings, on the lute, of Bach's six violin sonatas and partitas (BWV 1000 - 1006) and of the 'cello suites, again on the lute (BWV 1007 - 1012) which are all available in one bargain boxed set.

Be sure to read the product description which clarifies matters.
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5.0 out of 5 stars js bach lute suites, 16 Nov 2013
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This review is from: J.S. Bach: Lute Suites nos. 1, 2 & 3 (Audio CD)
This was a present for my other half. He was very excited and plays it at least once a day.! Brilliant playing. A joy to listen to.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Lovely interpretation of the Cello suites on Lute, 28 July 2013
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This review is from: J.S. Bach: Lute Suites nos. 1, 2 & 3 (Audio CD)
As a 'cellist, I've always loved the Bach suites, and I love how well they translate to different solo instruments. Hopkinson Smith has made a great recording on Lute, that brings out different aspects of the pieces from those we hear on bowed strings. A lovely collection.
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J.S. Bach: Lute Suites nos. 1, 2 & 3
J.S. Bach: Lute Suites nos. 1, 2 & 3 by Hopkinson Smith (Audio CD - 2013)
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