Red Priest bring a fresh exciting spin to the music of J S Bach in this their new Cd Johann I'm only Dancing. The side ways reference to the David Bowie 70s classic in the title to appropriate. This is music that will have you in the mind to jig around to the virtuoso playing of Piers Adams (recorders) Julia Bishop (violin) Angela East (cello) and Howard Beach (Harpsichord). They bring an amazing style of playing that owes much to the true meaning of Baroque rather than the strictly regimented style of so many orchestral exponents. The speed changes , the power varies and the musicianship is outstanding. I think the Johann of the title, once he got over the initial shock , would firstly recognise this style of playing but would most certainly approve wholeheartedly of what Red Priest are doing.
To hear what they do with the music is wonderful but to see them in performance is even better. I recently saw then touring with this album in Bradford on Avon in Wiltshire where they succeeded in amazing a packed audience with a full performance of this new album and this resulted in a busy rush on the CD sales table at the end of the performance. Go and see them if you have the chance but don't join the line to purchase a copy after the show buy it now and get it on your cd player or Ipod as soon as possible and you too will join the growing number of baroque music aficionados who are fans of Red Priest.
Once again this fabulous quartet works its magic, achieving everything from stretching a solo violin partita to music for four, right down to reducing a Brandenburg Concerto for the same: the disc is a wonderful mix of well-known popular Bach tracks and more obscure works, sweet and lyrical music and lively romps. As ever, the playing is dazzling - as a recorder player myself I am always particularly blown away by Piers Adams' speed and accuracy, but all four players work together beautifully. It's not by any means purist baroque performance, but it has wit, verve and charm, and is accessible, very musical in its own right, and great fun to listen to.
One of the questions that are frequently asked about arrangements of the works of Johann Sebastian Bach, is would he have approved of this recording? I'd say of course he would. He was fond of re-arranging his own works and those of others, including Vivaldi, the inspiration for the name of Red Priest, as this was how Vivaldi was known. I have for several years, loved JS,'s arrangement for 4 harpsichords of Vivaldi's violin concerto, imagining him sending out notes to his friends and sons, to 'come on and have a jam session, I've transcribed this cool concerto for FOUR harpsichords'. I've spent years playing and singing Bach and one of the remarkable aspects of his writing is the intricate and interesting inner parts - which made singing the alto and tenor lines in choral pieces much more challenging. You can play various pieces forwards, backwards, retrograde, turned inside out and it still works. This is because old JS was a genius. On reading various interviews at the Red Priest website, their approach is to try to play without music, heart on sleeve, gypsy like spontaneity, which with JS's music works beautifully. Of course, you have to take into account the fact Piers Adams the recorder(s) player is a virtuoso. His purity of tone, amazing articulation and jaw-dropping technique is a revelation. If your children are starting the recorder and you hate the sound, think again and listen to Piers Adams. The first piece, The Prelude from the Suite for Lute is very well known, but polished up to brilliance with each part as clear as a bell. I think the magic is in the phrasing. Julia Bishop, the violinist has a jazzy side and an enticingly languid style. Angela East's cello playing is warm and equally as virtuosic as Piers Adams. Howard Beach, the coolest harpsichordist moves from unobtrusive ripples, through graceful skipping in the Prelude in G minor (BWV885) to machissimo in the Sontata in Aminor, transposed to suit the quartet. Red Priest perform a lot - if you can, go and see them. It's unforgettable.
I love Red Priest. I don't enjoy everything they do, but I think their approach is wonderfully refreshing, their musical skill is quite astounding in places, they often produce genuinely thrilling music – and they quite often raise a smile, too.
This is a terrific album of Bach arrangements, played with Red Priest's trademark zest and virtuosity. It opens with the famous prelude from the E major Violin Partita, superbly arranged and played with terrific zing, continues with a truly lovely Andante from the E minor Flute Sonata, then a wonderful, varied arrangement of the mighty organ Toccata & Fugue in D minor…and so on. It's a really great programme, crammed with wit, beauty, virtuosic fireworks and, running through it all, a genuine love and understanding of Bach's music.
I love and revere Bach and I would be very critical if I thought he were being trivialised. I think this is anything but trivialising Bach, though; it's a lot of fun but there's also real musical depth and merit here and I can recommend this disc extremely warmly.
some people knock this ensemble because it experiments and isnt orthodox. im not one. i love the idea of experimenting with baroque. i think its much the way that baroque artists actually wanted their music used. im all for it.
but that said, bachs music lends itself less well to experimentation than does vivaldis. as jarrouskky once said, vivaldi is like fireworks, like a champagne. bach is more mudular, steady and perhaps austere. also much of the music rendered here sounds decidedly better when done with orchestra, rather than just four musicians. and the recorder, which is used on almost all tracks, is again more of a tenor instrument in vivaldi than it is with bach. AND one last criticim: the sound on this cd is not top notch. that is perhaps what this unorthodox emsemble could affort.
but all of that said, this is fun, speedy, original and good in many ways. i enjoyed the album and certainly considered the money well spent. i just didn't get carried away like some of the other reviewers and i must say, that while the music is good, it certainly muns't "must be heard to be believed". it doesn't break the paradigm of speedy baroque recordings.