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4.4 out of 5 stars
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4.4 out of 5 stars
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on 14 February 2012
The guitarist Xuefei Yang attended London's illustrious Royal Academy of Music for her post graduate studies. During that period she was the winner of the Ivor Mairants Guitar Award, administered by the Worshipful Company of Musicians (one of the City of London's important guilds). She has an impeccable technique and superb musicianship. This is her fourth major label release with EMI and is simply stunning.

Running at over 77 minutes duration, the helpful sequencing of the tracks is much like a live concert performance, with solo pieces puctuating the ensemble works. Joined by the Elias String Quartet for three concertos, the programme is very satisfying. The solo recordings were made in Suffolk, and the concertos undertaken at Liverpool Philharmonic's recently refurbished rehearsal and performance space The Friary in West Everton - recipient of many favourable comments on its fine acoustics and atmosphere.

The three concertos were all transcribed by Xuefei Yang and she has done a top job. The disc opens with Concerto in D minor (BWV 1052) taken from the harpsichord version. Another transcription of this for the Naxos label was recorded by Gerald Garcia with the Camerata Cassovia some 20 years ago. Fei has shaved around a minute off each of the first two movements and stretched out the third movement by about half a minute. Comparing the two I would say Fei's new recording for EMI has the edge for me, with its strong dynamics and crisp equalisation. Her Greg Smallman guitar really works well in this ensemble setting. I didn't have other recordings of the other main pieces, but loved them straight away.

My personal highlight on first listening was the Presto fourth movement within the Sonata in G minor (BWV 1001 transcribed in A minor). Wow, this certainly is presto, but always with feeling and never robotic. Bravo!
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on 7 February 2012
Well my copy arrived today courtesy of Amazon, if I was a musicologist with a knowledge of Bach's works I could give a more scholarly 'review' but ... Fei and her constant but unobtrusive companions 'The Elias String Quartet' start with a transcription of the d minor harpsichord concerto. The immediate feel is of a live recording with an authentic Baroque sound with the added bonus in that the guitar can diminuendo and crescendo which I think I'm right in saying the harpsichord of Bach's time couldn't, the guitar and harpsichord do sound similiar in respect of their lack of sustain, which of course makes this an ideal suite for transcription, and it is. The recording is refreshingly dry, clear and crisp, yes just like a cold glass of white wine, except, no hangover. There has been some very hard work gone into these transcriptions, I don't know when Fei has found the time with her schedule but not only in the writing but these are big pieces for anyone, nearly 24 minutes for the d minor suite, that is heavyweight by anyone's standards. The Adagio is dramatic and intimate, the third movement the band has a 'jolly up' as Julian Bream might say, with some very nice bass playing on the guitar mixing in some stacattico notes in the bass to drive it along. The quartet have left just enough room for the guitar to shine at the cadences and the playing will come a surprise to listeners not used to the virtuosic capabilities of great guitar players. This isn't music just for guitarists but for all lovers of great music.Best thing I've bought ... ever? Maybe. So thank you very much Ms. Fei Yang.
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on 9 March 2012
This has to be one of the most important contributions to recorded guitar music in years. Xuefei's stunning technique and brilliant arrangements of Bach's keyboard, lute and violin works are simply breathtaking.What a clever idea to team the Elias string quartet with her solo guitar for the Concertos -creating a dynamic yet even balance.Even Glenn Gould will be smiling down for these lovely interpretations.Wonderful playing all round but for technical virtuosity-Xuefei's lightning execution of the Presto of the G minor Sonata.Phew-Smokin'!
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This is a good disc of Bach transcriptions but I do have my reservations about it. I think such innovative transcriptions are a very good idea and wholly in Bach's own idiom - he transcribed several of these pieces himself for various instruments - and Xuefei Yang is a fantastic guitarist, so there are many good things about the disc: it gives a fine insight into the structure of the pieces, the overall sound, especially of Fei's guitar, is very lovely and some of her playing is simply breathtaking in its virtuosity.

However, I did think that the playing of the Elias Quartet plodded a bit in the concertos. They seem to lack that spring in the step which permeates much of Bach's music, and its essential drive and sense of joy struggled to emerge some of the time. I also felt that there were moments when Bach became secondary to the virtuosity of Fei's playing. In the Presto finale of BWV1001, for example, the speed and accuracy of the playing is quite astonishingly brilliant - but for me, taking the movement that fast means that the music itself gets rather swept away in the deluge of notes.

I don't want to carp too much - this is great music played by a genuine virtuoso guitarist and I like the disc. Many people plainly love it, and fair enough, so do read their reviews too. For myself, I can give this a slightly qualified recommendation.

(I would warmly recommend Nigel North's Bach On The Lute set for some truly wonderful Bach transcriptions, including BWV1001: Bach on the Lute )
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on 29 September 2012
I saw Fei and the Elias String quartet at Chester, and was bowled over by the whole musical performance, so it was inevitable I bought the CD, which is ace. The combined forces of guitar and strings is a truly wonderful sound and, of course, there are solo pieces which showpiece Fei's wonderful tone and mastery of the guitar. What's not to like?
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on 6 January 2015
Disappointing. Xuefei Yang is an impressive talent but parts of this recording don't work for me. Her solos are polished but there's a problem with her concertos with the Elias Quartet. I've seen the Elias in concert several times and have enjoyed and admired their playing, but here they lack impact and sound oddly distant and disengaged. Maybe they simply didn't gel with the soloist, or the recording engineer did them no favours. Whatever the reason, I don't think this recording will be one they want to remember. It compares poorly with other recent Bach transcriptions such as Avi Avital's for mandolin.
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on 2 June 2014
My husband and I have heard Xuefei Yang live on two occasions. She goes on from 'great' to 'exceptional'. I believe she's very highly thought of by the wonderful guitarist John Williams. I felt her performance was extremely well-balanced. I would recommend this CD to anyone who plays classical guitar (I don't, but I love the music) and who enjoys Bach.
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on 5 March 2016
This CD is a revelation. On a first try, I didn't think much of the performance, but I was drawn back for another try. I turned up the volume and that changed everything. The sound of the guitar is so soft and subtle that it seems at first to be overtaken by the other instruments. Then you gradually realize that it provides the foundation on which the other instruments float. You have to really listen, and when you do, this quiet and extraordinarily rich sound gives a completely new experience. I have heard these Bach concertos many times before, but never like this. I feel like I am hearing them for the first time. Ms. Yang is an extraordinary musician. She has not only captured me with her performance; she has taught me something about how I listen to music. Many thanks!
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on 7 December 2013
If you enjoy Bach and classical guitar, then add this to your collection. Lovely to hear Xuefei's guitar among the Elias Quartet strings;
her solo playing of the Sonata in G minor is sheer joy; gravity lifts away while she plays.
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on 13 May 2013
Played with great clarity and sensitivity. I really enjoyed the whole album. These are less well known than most of the guitar repertoire - it's nice to hear something different.
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