Title - Novare: J.S. Bach Lute Works on Electric Guitar
Artist - Harvey Valdes
For those not in the know, guitar virtuoso Harvey Valdes’ Novare: J.S. Bach Lute Works on Electric Guitar – to be released by Destiny Records on April 8th, 2022 – features sublime scores long performed by the world’s greatest lutenists and classical guitarists; although these pieces sound more timeless than ever in the hands of Valdes on steel-string electric guitar.
The album presents Valdes playing 10 of Bach’s pieces not on the age-old lute or the nylon-string classical guitar but on the modern steel-string electric guitar.
The result is ear-opening; the notes are the same ones Bach put to paper in the 18th century, but Valdes performs them with a tone and texture that sounds extraordinarily fresh and of the moment, without ever trying to unduly “modernize” the music.
1. Lute Suite in C Minor, BWV 997: I. Prelude (Arr. A-Flat Minor)
2. Lute Suite in C Minor, BWV 997: II. Fugue (Arr. A-Flat Minor)
3. Lute Suite in C Minor, BWV 997: III Sarabande (Arr. A-Flat Minor)
4. Lute Suite in C Minor, BWV 997: IV Gigue (Arr. A-Flat Minor)
5. Lute Suite in C Minor, BWV 997: V Double (Arr. A-Flat Minor)
6. Prelude, Fugue and Allegro in E-Flat Major, BWV 998: I. Prelude (Arr. D-Flat Major)
7. Prelude, Fugue and Allegro in E-Flat Major, BWV 998: II. Fugue (Arr. D-Flat Major)
8. Prelude, Fugue and Allegro in E-Flat Major, BWV 998: III. Allegro (Arr. D-Flat Major)
9. Prelude in C Minor, BWV 999 (Arr. D-Flat Minor)
10. Fugue in G Minor, BWV 1000 (Arr. A-Flat Minor)
This rather masterful, wholly engrossing new recording opens on the quintet of Lute Suite in C Minor, BWV 997’s with the ornately sublime Prelude and the fluid gossamer of Fugue and backs those up with the delicate ambiance found lovingly within Sarabande, the melodically-charged Gigue, and then comes the gently fervent musings of Double.
Next come the trio of Prelude, Fugue and Allegro in E-Flat Major, BWV 998’s which themselves open with the harmonious ebb and flow of Prelude and continue seamlessly onward with the quietly ornamented Fugue, rounding out on the sturdier fare of Allegro, this recording closing on the free-flowing majesties found within the adorned Prelude in C Minor, BWV 999 and, finally, the embroidered magnificence of Fugue in G Minor, BWV 1000.
Trust me when I say that it isn’t just world-renowned guitarists who have been impressed by Novare. Classical pianist Simone Dinnerstein, celebrated for her playing of Bach on the modern grand piano, says: “Harvey Valdes brings an improviser’s sensibility to this music, which is in so many ways the most authentic approach to Bach. There is an understated quality to his interpretations that allows a listener to hear the architecture of the music, and there is a rhythmic malleability that gives breath and presence.”
“The Prelude and Fugue in D-flat stands out in the way that Valdes enjoys the sustained possibilities of the electric guitar. It’s a beautiful new take on old gems.”
Why Bach on electric guitar? Says Harvey, “Why not?! The electric guitar has a capacity for tone, color and dynamics that moves beyond what the acoustic classical guitar can do. There have been some past recordings of electric guitarists who have played Bach or works by Mozart, Beethoven, etc. These often feature the instrument using high gain and distorted sounds with fast virtuosic playing.”
“I respect this approach, but it’s not the one I wanted to take. I was interested in honoring some of the delicate classical guitar approaches and while also taking advantage of the sonic dimensions of the electric guitar.”
“For listeners who are guitar players, I want to share with them how it’s possible to play Bach’s lute works on an electric guitar. You can bring a classical guitar approach to the electric guitar that expands the sonic landscape for this historical music and gives it a space to live in the present. As for everyone else, enjoy! I hope it can soothe a listener’s life. Making it certainly brought some peace into my life during a challenging time that has affected us all.”
Like the art of Shakespeare or Van Gogh, the music of Johann Sebastian Bach has been recognized the world over as universal and timeless – sounding as moving and miraculous now as the day these Baroque scores were written, some three hundred years ago.
The lute works that J.S. Bach composed have been recorded by the world’s greatest lutenists and guitarists across the past century, from Segovia to Julian Bream to John Williams to Hopkinson Smith, among a myriad of others.
It would take a stroke of something approaching genius to enable us to hear these pieces truly anew. But that is just what Harvey Valdes has accomplished with Novare: J.S. Bach Lute Works on Electric Guitar.
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