3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Bach transcriptions,
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.