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Paul O'Dette's Bach

Available at Amazon:
available at Amazon
Bach, Lute Works, vol. 1, Paul O'Dette
(released August 14, 2007)

Online Score:
Bach Lute Works, BWV 995-1000
Ionarts had the good fortune to hear lutenist Paul O'Dette in concert earlier this year at the National Gallery of Art. A new recording of Lully's Thésée, under his direction at the Boston Early Music Festival, has also been under review recently. As the Director of Early Music at Eastman, he is one of the leading figures of the American early music scene, which by comparison to the flowering of historically informed performance (HIP) ensembles in Europe could be described as moribund. O'Dette brings a veteran's experience, therefore, to this new recording of the complete works for lute by J. S. Bach (many of them are arrangements of his own pieces for solo violin and cello). Its first installment is welcome, particularly since there is not a favorite complete recording on my shelf featuring Baroque lute (the various discs made by Hopkinson Smith are all good), although there are several adaptations by excellent guitarists.

Bach's pronounced tendency toward encyclopedic completism probably led to his composition of a significant body of works intended, apparently, for the lute. As O'Dette's excellent liner notes summarize, scholars have pointed out that Bach had an affinity for the lute, although his manner of composition for it indicates that he conceived the music in a non-idiomatic way. It is likely that he composed while seated at the Lautenwerk he designed, a keyboard instrument with gut strings that imitated the sound of the lute. In any case, he notated these pieces not in lute tablature but as if they were to be played at a keyboard. This requires some creative adaptation, such as transposing BWV 1011 (adapted in G minor from the C minor cello suite) up a step to A minor (a solution suggested by Hopkinson Smith). It is all recorded in clear and warm sound on the 13-course lute built by New York-based luthier Andrew Rutherford, after an 18th-century instrument by Sebastian Schelle.

Harmonia Mundi HMU 907438

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