REVIEW – God’s Time, Bach for Guitar

5 stars ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️: A fine, sensitive, and contemplative set of arrangements for guitar of Bach’s music

Bertil van Boer, Fanfare • STREAM GOD’S TIME HERE

I’ve always had a soft spot for guitar arrangements of the music of Baroque composers, such as can be found in this album of works by Johann Sebastian Bach. Until recently, all guitar students where I taught were required to take Collegium, and though we did have a Renaissance lute, most were directed to perform music with tablature that may or may not have been written originally for the instrument. As one might imagine, there was a fair amount of Spanish and Italian Baroque works, but a fair number chose to attempt to perform music by Bach, generally trying to finagle the solo violin, keyboard, or cello pieces to fit their instrument. In every case, whatever the difficulty in so doing, the results demonstrated that his works were perfectly adaptable for the guitar, and moreover this is something that Silvius Julius Weiss, a friend of the composer, thought so as well, albeit his instrument was the lute. The purpose of this long introduction is to note that the majority of these “arrangements” were fine, if amateur renderings, but with this program we have some quite sophisticated ones that bring out the nuances in Bach’s often complex music. There is no attempt here to provide complete works, but rather the program shows a compendium of movements that fit together like a puzzle. This contains the following works:

  • Prelude, Fugue, and Allegro (BWV 998) probably intended for Weiss or a keyboard Lautenwerk
  • Prelude in C major (BWV 846) from the Well-tempered Keyboard
  • Prelude and “Fiddle” Fugue (BWV 539 plus 1000-1001), a mash-up of the three versions of the fugue
  • The opening chorus from the Actus Tragicus (BWV 106)
  • Chromatic Fantasy in D minor (BWV 903)
  • Prelude in E-flat major (BWV 853) from the Well-tempered Keyboard
  • Short Preludes (BWV 924, 926, 930, 934, 939, 961, and 999 but with a cadential borrowing from BWV 872) from the notebooks for Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and Johann Peter Kellner

All in all, it is a nice collection that Aaron Larget-Caplan has chosen to fit his theme of ethereal contemplation. A couple of examples will be of interest. First, the Prelude and Fiddle Fugue, his own compilation of several versions, begins with a fluid and quite complex movement, wherein he moves easily through the various layers of accompaniment, sometimes altogether and others in contrast. Yet, throughout the theme is clearly delineated. In the fugue, he easily outlines the various entrances, with a clear tone and precision of Bach’s lyrical fugal theme. The episodes are particularly well-placed with good depth in the harmony. In this paraphrase from the cantata Actus Tragicus, the smooth flow is pensive and steady, indeed contemplative, with a slow and light marching tempo. The E-flat minor Prelude is equally complex and at the same time evocative. He notes that it reflects the stages in life, and the opening seems calm and yet filled with an implacable march forward. The central sections are a bit more jagged, harmonic uncertain at moments, but a slower more deliberate tempo, and at the end the pensive mood returns.

There is a set of six smaller preludes and a brief counterpoint, all drawn from the pieces meant for Wilhelm Friedemann Bach and another set for his pupil Johann Peter Kellner. The second of these, in D minor (BWV 926), is a rather charming little exercise that at moments sounds a bit Spanish on the guitar, even as it is quite improvisatory. The fugue that follows (BWV 961) has a meandering theme that really indicates a musical wandering with an easy lyrical flow. Finally, a short prelude (BWV 939), barely half a minute long, twinkles or rather sparkles, setting a lighter tone for the set.

Larget-Caplan makes short work of these pieces, all of which seem to have been written for his instrument (though of course they weren’t). He navigates the sometimes odd twists and harmonic turns with grace and ease, providing at all times a soft and thoughtful performance, even in the couple of faster movements. This is the sort of music that is perfect for introducing students to Bach; complexity that is evened out, and a sense of how much depth each of the pieces has in terms of texture and lyricism. The notes here say that a compact disc is forthcoming, and whether one streams these works or waits until the disc is

released, it is sure to provide three-quarters of an hour’s worth of fine, sensitive performance on the guitar. Bertil van Boer

5 stars: A fine, sensitive, and contemplative set of arrangements for guitar of Bach’s music

God’s Time – Music of J. S. Bach on GuitarBACH Prelude, Fugue and Allegro in ETBWV 998. Das

Wohltemperierte ClavierPrelude in C, BWV 846; Prelude in eT, BWV 853. Prelude and Fugue in d, BWV 529. Gottes Zeit ist der allerbeste Zeit, BWV 106, “Actus Tragicus”: Scnatina. Chromatic Fantasia in d, BWV 903. Little Preludesd, BWV 926; No. 11 in g, BWV 930; c, BWV 934; C, BWV 939; c, BWV 999. Fugue in C, BWV 961Aaron Larget-Caplan, (gtr and arr) • TIGER TURN (Streaming audio: 48:54) • STREAM GOD’S TIME HERE • CDs at BANDCAMP

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