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Bach: Sonatas and Partitas, Vol. 1
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
This is a fascinating and enjoyable take on some of Bach's solo violin works, played quite brilliantly on the mandolin.

Chris Thile has recorded largely folk- and jazz- based music hitherto, and the first thing to say is that this is no gimmick or novelty record: Thile is a serious musician and a real virtuoso on his instrument, and this is a genuine interpretation of Bach and not a "re-imagining" or "re-working." Thile really respects and loves Bach's music and brings genuine thought, insight and musicianship to his playing of it. There are some very affecting moments (the opening Allemande of Partita No.1 is lovely, for example) and full-on rollicking dancing Bach where appropriate. I very much enjoyed the interpretations.

Thile's virtuosity is quite breathtaking in places (like the Double of the Corrente in Partita No.1) and his technique is so good that he can really let the music blossom under his fingers. My reservation about this disc is not to do with the playing, which is superb throughout, but with the limitations of the instrument itself. However good the player, the mandolin doesn't have the expressive capability of the violin and although I cannot imagine it being better played than this, to me it still lacks the emotional depth of a really good violin performance. (I felt much the same about Avi Avital's excellent playing of Bach on the mandolin. Bach )

You may not share my reservations, and even if you do I suggest you give this disc a try. It's fascinating and enjoyable and, whatever the limitations of the instrument, it's a disc of fabulous music, beautifully played by a very fine musician and I can certainly recommend it.

For another brilliant non-violin version of some of the Bach Partitas and Sonatas, I warmly recommend Suzanne Heinrigh's recording on viola da gamba. It's fantastic. Transcriptions for Viola da Gamba, or mp3: Js Bach Transcriptions for Viola Da Gamba)
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on 8 August 2013
I am not a classica music buff, my interest in this album is a result of my love mandolin and Thile's paying on other recordings. I have bought other CDs on the basis that they feature mandoin and have given them very little play time, but this one is different. My own taste is bue grass and American roots music but this album is just stunning. I have istened to it four times in two days and it has just grown on me with every play.
Unlike so many classical musicians Thile sticks to his Loar Gibson which immediately brings a distinctive sound that will be familiar to blue grass fans. I would dare to say that Thile has a recognisable style of playing which is evident here despite the repetoire. There may be classical experts who can spot divergence from traditional or accepted ways of playing these pieces, but as someone who didn't previously know them I found his interpretation beautiful. Put simpy, there is nothign I could find to criticise about these recordings, they are moving, inspiring, full of emotion and leave this listener with a desire for more. I'm already looking forward to the next volume.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 18 October 2013
Chris Thile is a master of the Mandolin and his incredible playing is shown off her to an astonishing degree. I have these pieces both for violin and guitar and have always loved them. These versions are every bit as beautiful and really recommended if you are a Bach fan.
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on 12 January 2014
Chris Thile is a wunderkind...one of the most flawlessy perfect instrumentalist alive...his Bluegrass and Fusion stuff is astonishing...however, the Bach is very one-dimensional, I think largely because of the material, it's rhythmically homogenous for a large part of the record, and as such can get a bit monotonous...
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 8 September 2013
As a mediocre mandolin player, after listening to this I am considering taking up bricklaying!
This must prove that Chris Thile is not of this world.
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on 17 February 2014
Have always loved these pieces of music by Bach. Came across them being played by Chris Thile on the radio one morning and wanted to hear more! Truly amazing!!
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on 16 December 2013
The brilliant amazing Chris Thile. And even better that younvpcan listen almost instantly on Amazon Cloud whilst waiting for CD
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on 23 June 2015
Once more Chris shows his dexterity on the mandolin playing with masterly control on tone and tempo. Can't wait for Vol2.
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on 24 September 2013
Great disk by a superb artist - nothing more to say. Looking forward to the remaining volumes in the series
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on 22 August 2013
Sid Nuncius is completely correct in saying that this lacks the emotional depth of a really good violin performance. And whilst it might be pleasant to listen to one or two tracks as a kind of "wow, he's a good player, I didn't realise you could play Bach on the mandolin" kind of experience, a whole album is a bit much. I know everyone thinks Thile is amazing, but I find his music and playing a bit boring. The problem with so-called 'virtuoso' players is that everything can become an exercise in technical expertise, and ultimately the music can take second place to the ego of the performer: I think that this has happened here.

Also, let's remember that this is nothing new - it's just that someone quite famous has done it. Mike Marshall (whose music is much better and more interesting than Thile's) has played Bach on the mandolin for years, and even published a book of arrangements of Bach's Partitas and Sonatas for mandolin some time ago. Marshall is a wonderful musician, possibly my favourite American mandolin player (although it's hard to beat a mid-to-late 1970s David Grisman).

And let's not forget the amazing Simon Mayor, who is a brilliant mandolin player, and has been including lots of classical content into his music right from The Mandolin Album in 1990. Mayor's playing is absolutely first rate - the music always shines through. And his mandolin tutor books have helped many aspiring players to learn the instrument.

Ultimately I'm sure that lots of people will purchase Thile's Bach album, but I doubt that it will get many repeat plays, even from mandolin players. Watch him play a few Bach tunes on YouTube first, and then decide if you really need a whole album's worth.
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