Archive for the ‘Recordings’ Category

4 New Album Reviews from Canada!

4 new album reviews from Canada! 

3 album reviews in one article by JWR, a first!

Spanish Candy • John. Cage. Guitar. • God’s Time: Music of J.S. Bach!!!

THANK YOU JWR – James Wegg Review !!!

 
James Wegg Review (click to read all three reviews)
 

Listen to Aaron on SpotifyAmazonApple

Album Review – Spanish Candy – Five Stars!

SPANISH CANDY  • Fanfare

Aaron Larget-Caplan (gtr) • TIGER TURN 888-10 (31:58)

ALBÉNIZ Suite española No. 1, op. 47: No. 3, Sevilla. Granada (both arr. Larget-Caplan). Suite española No. 2, op. 97: No. 4, Zambra granadiana. SANLÚCAR Mantilla de Feria. TÁRREGA La Paloma. La Mariposa. Lágrima. Recuerdos de la Alhambra. MARQUINA España Cañi.

Five stars: A beautiful homage from a master guitarist to Spain. “Candy” it might be, but offered at the highest level.

Only 6 of Aaron Larget-Caplan’s 10 discs has been reviewed in Fanfare. I reviewed two of them: Honey Cadence in Fanfare 46:1, comprised of some of Larget-Caplan’s own compositions and God’s Time, a disc devoted to Larget-Caplan’s transcriptions of Bach keyboard works for guitar (47:4). This new disc, Spanish Candy is his tenth album (no flies on me for knowing this!) and celebrates his love for Spanish music and flamenco, mixing arrangements of works originally for piano with pieces for guitar. It was Spanish music that inspired Larget-Caplan as a child, so the project is clearly dear to his heart. As he says, “this music lit a flame in my heart and literally changed my life”; inevitably, Segovia was a large influence.

This is his fourth disc on Tiger Turn records (and, indeed, with successful producer Kabir Sehgal) Larget-Caplan’s trademark technical security mixed with flair and élan fits this music perfectly. He also has a long history of working with flamenco dancers in a classical-flamenco fusion via his ensemble ¡Con Fuego!.

The attractive “Zambra granadina,” the fourth and final movement of the 1888 Suite española No. 2, is deservedly popular. Larget-Caplan’s rhythmic sense is the key to the success of the reading, while his timbral excellence and variety enlivens the musical surface. The recording, close and clear, supports his every move, The more extrovert “Sevilla” (from the first Suite) speaks of blazing sunshine, propelled along by its internal rhythms. Larget-Caplan’s articulation is splendid.

Composed by flamenco guitarist Esteban De Sanlúcar (1910-89), Mantilla de Feria is a gentler beast, and here it is Larget-Caplan’s control that is so impressive, maintaining a low dynamic while projecting the spirit of dance. As he does in the habanera, La Paloma by Francisco Tárrega. The layering of bassline rhythm and sweet (and very famous) melody is exquisitely judged, the intervening registral space carrying an implicit loneliness. The next piece La Mariposa, is complex yet brief; the rather more restrained Lágrima sings a sweet song in response. Perhaps a touch more flow would have sealed the deal here: expression that works in the concert hall sometimes can feel stilted in the recording studio. No such caveats about the remarkably peaceful Recuerdos de la Alhambra (an impression helped by Larget-Caplan’s superb tremolo technique). The final offering of the five-piece Tárrega sequence is Prudent, a minor-key étude of great poignancy while maintaining its study-like demeanor.

The last piece by Albéniz follows: the serenata Granada. And what colors Larget-Caplan is able to conjure up from his guitar here! Of all the loveliness on this disc, this performance is the fairest (and if that sounds like a slender maiden, it is not by accident: there is grace galore here). Finally, Pascual Marquina Narro’s España Cañi (Gypsy Spain; the composer is better known with “Pasquina” as the surname). Larget-Caplan puts a whole lot into his performance so the listener can draw a whole lot out. Detail is brilliantly projected, while the music itself is infused with the spirit of the pasodoble.

A beautiful homage from a master guitarist to Spain. “Candy” it might be, but offered at the highest level. Recommended.  Colin Clarke

Five stars: A beautiful homage from a master guitarist to Spain. “Candy” it might be, but offered at the highest level.

This article originally appeared in Issue 47:2 (Nov/Dec 2023) of Fanfare Magazine.

New Album – Spanish Candy

Spanish Candy is now available!

–> https://spanishcandy.lnk.to/SpanishCandy (streaming, downloads, CDs)

Spanish Candy features classical Spanish and flamenco standards by Isaac Albéniz and Francisco Tárrega, Esteban du Sanlúcar, and Pascual Marquina.

Spanish Candy is the culmination of a vision that sought to combine my favorite elements of flamenco (dance, rasgueado, energy) and Spanish classical guitar (harmonic language and colors). See Sevilla, Mantilla de Feria, and España Cañi for examples.

The 10 tracks promise to be a treat for fans of Spanish classical and flamenco music.

This is my 10th studio album and fourth with producer Kabir Sehgal for Tiger Turn.

It is also the first dedicated to the music of Spain, I am grateful to be able share Spanish Candy with you.

Read the complete press release and see a video playlist: https://alcguitar.com/album-spanish-candy.php

Thank you for listening,
Aaron

Ps. The first 50 CD orders via Bandcamp will receive a special ALC Olé magnet.

CD Tracks. photo by Catherine Larget-Caplan

Spanish Candy CD inside

Aaron on Conducting Conversations

Aaron is featured on Conducting Conversations with Mike Maino on WCRI.
Some talk and lots of music!
 
 
Free to listen and 48min. 
 
PROGRAM:
3 Tracks from Spanish Candy
2 Tracks from honey cadence
Small preludes from God’s Time – Music of Bach
 
 

Spanish Candy – New Album May 26!

Ladies and gentlemen, I am thrilled to announce the upcoming release of “Spanish Candy.” This album is set to drop on May 26, and is an absolute must-listen for all lovers of classical and flamenco guitar.

Spanish Candy” features 10 tracks of classical and flamenco gems by some of the most celebrated Spanish composers, including Isaac Albéniz, Francisco Tarrega, Pascual Marquina, and Esteban de Sanlúcar. Click to reserve the singles on streaming and download services:

La Paloma • April 19
Recuerdos de la Alhambra • April 28
Lagrima • May 5
Mantilla de Feria • May 18
SPANISH CANDY • May 26

Being my first album dedicated to the music of Spain, I’ve included repertoire that grabbed the heart of a 16yo kid and completely changed his world. It is music of love, excitement, nostalgia, and peace, and I hope it brings all of that and more to you!

“Spanish Candy” marks my 10th album and fourth with the Tiger Turn. Since November 2021, my albums have earned over 4 million streams, and I am excited to add “Spanish Candy” to the mix.

We owe a special thanks to Steve Hunt for mixing and mastering the album, Kabir Sehgal for his guidance, Alex Fedorov for the stunning album design, and Catherine Larget-Caplan for her stellar photos (CD). A CD will be available through Bandcamp.

Reserve your singles and album, mark your calendars, and get ready to experience the exquisite artistry of “Spanish Candy.”

Lesson: Dream by John Cage

Recently I received a few questions from an Australian guitarist via Twitter regarding how I play a couple of spots in  John Cage’s Dream, so I decided to make a brief video on the part in question. 

Do you have questions on this piece or another of my Cage arrangements?

Let me know and I’ll go about making more.

The Lesson (3′):

 

Brief History: How Dream came into my life

From 2010-2014 I hosted Greater Boston House Concerts. I sat just behind the wonderful pianist Barbara Lieurance as she performed Dream.

I fell in love. The meandering line was simple yet kept me guessing where it would go.

The transparent chordal harmonies that interrupt the melodic line prepare the listener for extended melodies with the harmonies only being hinted with the magical use of the pedal allowing each note’s resonance to build upon the implied harmonies.

Single notes and their overtones become a lush painting of colors. 

Though the guitar only has one string per note (kind of) to the piano’s 3, and its lack of a sustain pedal, I decided to arrange it. 

The greatest challenge is finding a fingering that will allow for the most amount of resonance.

To do this I use campanella (cross-string fingering) and a healthy mix of natural and harmonic notes

It is recorded on John. Cage. Guitar. (Stone Records UK) and published by Edition Peters in CAGE: Piano Music Arranged for Guitar

Premiere Performance (not the same fingering):

Streaming Studio Recording (7′):

SPOTIFYAMAZONAPPLE MUSIC YOUTUBE MUSIC

SCORE: John Cage: Piano Music Arranged for Guitar (7 pieces)

BandcampEdition Peters

Album Review – God’s Time in The Arts Fuse

Classical Album Review: “God’s Time” — Guitarist Aaron Larget-Caplan Plays the Music of J. S. Bach

JANUARY 26, 2023
By Jonathan Blumhofer

Guitarist Aaron Larget-Caplan new release is arresting for how natural the transcriptions sound: it’s as though they’d been intended for this instrumentation all along.

Read the complete review –> https://artsfuse.org/267728/classical-album-review-gods-time-guitarist-aaron-larget-caplan-plays-the-music-of-j-s-bach/ 

Then there are the performances, themselves, which are consistently graceful, transparent, and well-shaped. Textural clarity and a strong sense of direction are hallmarks of Larget-Caplan’s performance of the Prelude, Fugue, & Allegro in E-flat, while he manages to whip up quite the little tempest in the Chromatic Fantasy in D minor.

A pair of preludes from The Well-Tempered Clavier (nos. 1 and 8) flow serenely, while his arrangement of the radiant prelude to the cantata Gottes Zeit is die allerbeste Zeit – possibly the most beautiful thing Bach wrote – ought to take its place next to György Kurtág’s two-piano transcription. The D-minor “Fiddle” Prelude and Fugue is, likewise, smartly paced and cleanly voiced.

Thank you Jonathan Blumhofer and The Arts Fuse!!

2022 Year in Review

2022

slight return

moments of normalcy

new artistic directions

Catching up

Dreams realized

musical Adventures

2022 By the Numbers (see below for expansion):

  • Premieres: 12
  • Concerts: 26 
  • Espresso: 730-750 (~2 per day)
  • Albums: 2 
  • Cassettes: 1 
  • Publications:
  • Collaborations: 8
  • Music with electronics: 2
  • Interviews & Podcasts: 8 
  • Grants: 2 
  • Grants Applied for:
  • Interviews conducted: 5
  • Residencies: 2
  • Classes: 12
  • Streams: 2.5 million
  • Amazing Street Tacos:
  • Pieces performed: 79

I know it’s arbitrary, but I would prefer our calendars marked the New Year in the spring, at least in to the Northern Hemisphere. That said, when I awoke on January 1, 2022 I did not know what to expect. 

My album ‘A Guitar Holiday’ was reaching people via streaming in ways I had never experienced (1-million streams to date!)

I was deep into composing what would become ‘honey cadence.’

A few concerts were on the calendar, but it did not feel like Covid had released us from its terrible grasp.

Coupled with the terror of Jan. 6, I knew I needed to focus on Art and appreciate each moment of living and creating.

I began the process of getting back to performing with classes and a concert at Framingham State University before embarking on my first tour since Covid: California!

APRIL TOUR: San Francisco State University –>Museum of Northern California Art, Chico–> Center For New Music, SF –> CSU Bakersfield –> Cal Poly Pomona –> Guitar Solo International (VIDEOS). SEE California Tour Pictures

While on the tour in California, I received news that I had been awarded a grant from the Boston Mayor’s Office for Arts & Culture to produce a series of 5 contemporary music concerts being held in my neighborhood between August and November under my series Now Musique.

Each concert brought composers to Dorchester for performances of their new lullabies and works for guitar + electronics. Read and see pictures HERE.

Upon returning to Boston, honey cadence, the first album dedicated to my own music was released. Mixed and mastered by the great Steve Hunt, I was not expecting much, as who knew if my music would touch people. Needless to say, I was happily surprised to go quickly through the first printing of CDs, and then see it was picked up on a few streaming playlists and it now has 1 million streams since its release in April!
It is my most popular album, which is a bit surreal. And no, my Mom does not do streaming.

My June concerts in Oregon began with an interview and performance on Thursdays @ Three with Christa Wessel for All Classical Portland before performing two solo programs in Portland for CDZ Musica and another at the wonderful Coaster Theatre Playhouse.

Seeing friends and walking on the beach felt like returning home. 

In June I recorded God’s Time: Music of J.S. Bach on Guitar, which was released in September. Featuring 16 of my own arrangements, it was recorded over 3 days and mixed and mastered by the wonderful Paul Averginos. The reviews have been stellar and I’m extremely proud of the album.

I set out to create a Bach album that was not like every other Bach Guitar album.

Mine would explore pieces not often played on the guitar, create new repertoire (a bit of a habit of mine), and bring a fresh voice to a couple of well known works, and I think I did that.

The responses to God’s Time have been overwhelmingly positive.

With over 300K streams since its release, I can’t wait to do another! Read and watch HERE.

One of the great difficulties of Covid was not being able to collaborate with wonderful musicians. Thankfully I had three performances with harpsichordist Frederick Jodry in Boston, Cape Cod, and Newport. Pianist John Thomas improvised over my own compositions in Provincetown – a first, and I joined Convergence Ensemble in November for three duos, two solos, and two quartets in an exhilarating concert titled Strings Galore. Libby Larsen’s Cajun Set was extra special!

I returned to Southern California in November for a series of classes and concerts. Being amongst friends and musicians for more than a day or two was inspiring extremely inspiring. I worked with students of guitarist-artist Peter Yates at UCLA, collaborated with Tom Flaherty and Buzz Gravelle at Pomona College, performed in La Jolla and Carlsbad, and ate amazing tacos!

Even while touring, I kept up with my students. In August we held our first student recital since Covid with players ranging in age of 14-62, and were gifted a wonderful Fernando Sor song with soprano Jessica Cooper.

At the end of November I kicked off my new blog series Music I Am, featuring brief interviews with inspiring and smart musicians and artists about their latest projects, inspirations, and habits. Check it out HERE.

Wishing all of you a happy and healthy year ahead. May 2023 be a year of wonderful music, exciting adventures, and Dreams Realized.

Musically,

Aaron

2022 Numbers Expanded

  • Premieres: 12 – Dennis Bathory-Kitsz, Antonio Celso Ribeiro, Dean Rosenthal, Thomas L. Read, Laurie Spiegel, Ian Wiese, Aaron Larget-Caplan
  • Concerts: 26 – California, Oregon, Massachusetts, which is still well below pre-covid concert numbers.
  • Espresso: 730-50 (~2 per day on average) – mainly cappuccino and Cortado
  • Albums: 2 – honey cadence and God’s Time: Music of J.S. Bach on Guitar
  • Cassettes: 1 – Etudes Volume 1 by Petridisch 
  • Publications: 3 – Bacchanale w/ Edition Peters and two Meet The Composer articles for the American Composers Alliance 
  • Collaborations: Frederick Jodry – harpsichord, John Thomas – piano; Convergence Ensemble: Heidi Braun-Hill – violin, Michelle LaCourse – viola, Hyun-Ji Kwon – cello
  • Music with electronics: 2 – Lainie Fefferman & Tom Flaherty
  • Interviews & PodcastsAll Classical Portland, Conducting Conversations Rhode IslandAll things Six Strings (2x), Just One Question, Guitaromanie, Fret Not
  • Grants: 3 – Mayor’s Office of Arts & Culture, multiple Local Cultural Council
  • Grants Applied for:
  • Interviews conducted: 5 – Music I Am blog series
  • Residencies: 2 Kirkland Community Artist Residency, Clinton, New York • Now Musique – Dorchester, Mass.
  • Classes: 12 – California, Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, Rhode Island
  • Streams: 2.5 million – Amazon and Spotify
  • Teaching: In person and online with students from California, China, Georgia, Massachusetts, Oregon, and Texas.
  • Amazing Street Tacos: 2 – San Francisco Korean Tacos and Los Angeles street tacos
  • Pieces performed: 79 compositions by 34 living composers, including 7 chamber works, 12 world premieres, and 29 solos from the New Lullaby Project

* Now Musique Composers TL: John McDonald, Stanley Hoffman, Charles Turner, Aaron Larget-Caplan TR: Larget-Caplan, Ronald Pearl, Brian Schober, Scott Wheeler BL: Tom Flaherty, Larget-Caplan, Stefanie Lubkowski, Ian Wiese, Dennis Bathory-Kitsz BR: Anthony Green, Francine Trester, Jim Dalton, Michael Veloso, Larget-Caplan, Curtis Hughes

REVIEW: honey cadence, Fanfare

LARGET-CAPLAN Honey Cadence.     Aaron Larget-Caplan (gtr)    (Streaming audio: 22:44) https://open.spotify.com/album/67b1ttYlQrTkCFKjJxWhSX?si=Ozeob3g3TcqJXCYFo3LLLQ  also available on Amazon, Amazon Music, Apple Music, Bandcamp and Deezer

FANLINK – Streaming

This well-recorded and superbly performed album is something of a meditation on tone and variations of timbre by guitarist/composer Aaron Larget-Caplan. The composer aims at “meditative intimacy,” something we hear in similar ways in the first two tracks, Sweet Nuance and Honey Cadence. Couple this with the sense of improvization that can lead to unexpected timbral areas (the chordal passage in Honey Cadence, for example), and you get a nicely variegated soundscape.

The experience is significantly heightened by the actual quality of the recording, which exudes a sense of space that supports the meditative basis; in some ways the sound has points of contact with Apple’s “Spatial Audio” in being clear yet somehow floaty (ironicaly on Apple Music, it is only available in lossless format). Grammy-winning Kabir Sehgal is Larget-Caplan’s co-producer in this project with Larget-Caplan himself overseeing the engineering aspect. It is impressive, as it has an effect on how one experiences the music and perhaps particularly the third track, Moving Still, which is cast in a language surely influenced by Philip Glass. Too much reverb, and the effect would be too ambient, and tend too much towards “mood music”. Instead, the clarity and definition enables the music to transcend above that to a higher state, particularly with the (pardon the pun) “glassy” punctuating high treble effects later on in the piece. There is some nicely judged two-part counterpoint later on, too.

I remain unsure as to the meaning of the title of Minding Play, but musically this strikes me as one of the weaker tracks in terms of inspiration. In contrast, Hidden Anticipation offers a veritable panorama of textures and timbres while its incessant flow seems to carry the melodies ever forwards.

Rather nice, after the first track’s Sweet Nuance, to have a final track entitled Slight Nuance. It is actually one of the longer tracks, and loses its way a little while remaining true to the eminently pleasant nature of this music. The most transfixing aspect of this EP release remains Larget-Caplan’s clear guitar artistry, though. Colin Clarke

four stars: The most transfixing aspect of this EP release is Larget-Caplan’s clear guitar artistry.

*This article originally appeared in Issue 46:1 (Sept/Oct 2022) of Fanfare Magazine.

For a signed CD go to Bandcamp or contact Aaron directly

* ~1 million streams since its release in April 2022!

REVIEW – INTERVIEW by Ken Meltzer

God’s Time—Music of J.S. Bach on Guitar is another in a series of superb recordings from Aaron Larget-Caplan. Here, Larget-Caplan performs his own transcriptions of Bach’s music. In my extended interview with Aaron Larget-Caplan, the guitarist describes his intensive exploration of Bach, and pays tribute to the musicians who have served the Baroque master so well. In that interview, Larget-Caplan’s reverence for, and affinity with Bach’s music are clear. And those elements are affirmed both in Larget-Caplan’s superb transcriptions and his poetic renditions. All of the transcriptions preserve the integrity and beauty of Bach’s original compositions.

In our interview, Larget-Caplan quotes organist/harpsichordist Peter Sykes, who “advised that transcriptions should sound as if they were written for the instrument.” This, Larget-Caplan achieves as well, in sterling fashion. And the rightness of his transcriptions are affirmed in performances that bear Larget-Caplan’s characteristic gorgeous tonal quality, crystal-clear articulation, and poetic phrasing. Larget-Caplan’s delineation of Bach’s contrapuntal writing is remarkable for its balance of precision and supple musicality. And in his fiery rendition of Bach’s Chromatic Fantasy, Larget-Caplan communicates his view of the work as a precursor to the Sturm und Drang movement. The gorgeous recorded sound does full justice to Larget-Caplan’s artistry. A splendid release.

Ken Meltzer, Fanfare

5 StarsFive stars: Guitarist Aaron Larget-Caplan’s exquisite transcriptions of Bach

Interview with Aaron Larget-Caplan by Ken Meltzer, Fanfare

God’s Time—Music of J.S. Bach on Guitar, presents arrangements and performances by Aaron Larget-Caplan. I spoke with Larget-Caplan about his lifelong exploration of Bach, the composer’s legendary interpreters, the art of transcription, and the significance of the repertoire included in God’s Time.

Your liner notes for God’s Time – Music of J.S. Bach on Guitar contain some fascinating comments that I would love to pursue further. For example: “There are many interpretations of Bach’s music by renowned artists to explore and ideas to internalize, which early in my career I found musically overwhelming.” Tell us about some of those artists, and why they inspired the profound reaction you describe.

The recordings of the major 20th-century masters were so full of personal character and technical mastery with each bearing the stamp of the performer, the space, and the label. I’m thinking of Gould and Richter, Heifetz, Landowska, Rostropovich, and Casals. They did things that many frown upon now, but even the approach to how the instruments were recorded was unique with the labels trying to be independent of each other. These performances still make me excited.

As I explored more and more, I discovered pianists such as Samuel Feinberg and William Kapell, both of whom were technical masters. I fell for Kapell through his Prokofiev recordings.

Living in Boston, violinists Rachel Podger, Christian Tetzlaff, Christoph Poppen are not unheard-of names. Each quite unique from the other, they shed light on ornamentation, variation of tempi, and lyricism.

I believe every guitarist goes through a harpsichord phase. Mine began with Landowska, and then the NEC early music department under John Gibbons. The wonderful Peter Sykes has deservingly placed his stamp on Boston and I’m grateful to hear him perform. Searching for Lute-harpsichord albums, I found the lovely collection by Robert Hill. Informative notes and playing, but hearing such works on early keyboards, which have different mechanisms and action speed then the modern day piano also gives the work a human touch. Gould is great, but fast is not always a choice I agree with.

Regarding the guitar, I fell in love with the early recordings of Maria Luisa Anido and Luise Walker for their use of color, rubato, and unbelievable technical abilities. Segovia’s Cello Suite No. 1 Prelude was, and still is, mind blowing. The structure and drama of Julian Bream’s Lute suites, the clarity of the Assad Duo, Paul Galbtraith’s silky touch, and the inventiveness of David Leisner’s ornamentation all played influential roles in what I do today.

At the end of the day, I can’t say any of these are right or wrong. I believe it is up to the artist to fully invest themselves in the music. I am not Julian Bream, nor should I be. To have Music in Life and a Life in Music means I must be me in every note. That said, stealing is most welcome.

You further reveal: “I took a break from programming (Bach) to allow time to study his music through unknown masters on various instruments, read more about his life, and further explore the place of music in society through writings of John Cage, Toru Takemitsu, Hazarat Inyat Kahn, and others.” Would you be willing to tell us more about this path of exploration?

Society’s relationship with music has changed over the course of time. What was once sacred and only heard in a church or private court is now background music or filler for video games. Since my first album was released in 2006, the practice of hearing and experiencing music has completely changed, and that’s without thinking about Covid.

For a short time in 2nd half of the 20th century, the advent of recorded music allowed some musicians to believe that recordings would be enough to give up live performance. For some this was great, while others disagreed. Though it wasn’t an option for me, I do believe the relationship between artist and audience to be sacred. I worked to make the recording intimate and as if the listener had very good seats in a beautiful space.

Books on the life of Bach and interpreting his music that I found inspiring:

  • Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven by John Eliot Gardiner
  • Interpreting Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier: A Performer’s Discourse of Method by Ralph Kirkpatrick
  • Bach Interpretation: Articulation Marks in Primary Sources of J. S. Bach by John Butt
  • Bach: Expanded Edition by Little, Meredith, Jenne, Natalie
  • Bach by Frederick Neumann
  • The Fencing Master, About Mrs. Anna Magdalena Bach’s Autograph Copy of the 6 Suites for Violoncello Solo senza Basso of Johann Sebastian Bach by Anner Bylsma

Books on performing and the place of music in society:

  • Glenn Gould Reader by Glenn Gould
  • Charm and Speed: Virtuosity in the Performing Arts by Vernon Alfred Howard
  • Confronting Silence by Toru Takemitsu
  • Silence by John Cage
  • The Music of Life and other titles by Hazrat Inyat Kahn

Please tell us a bit more about your involvement with John Cage, and in particular, your arrangements and recordings of his music.

What started as a wouldn’t-this-sound-cool type of project, became a recording and publishing endeavor far beyond what I imagined. In 2013, I arranged the piano part of Cage’s ‘Six Melodies’ for violin and guitar and performed it as part of my faculty recital at the Boston Conservatory with violinist Sharan Leventhal. Composer and violinist Thomas L. Read loved it and encouraged me to reach out to Edition Peters. I did.

They published the score in 2015 and it sold well enough for them to ask for a set of solos. In 2018 they published seven solos under ‘Piano Music for Guitar,’ and in September 2022 Bacchanale for prepared guitar duo. An album of all of them, John. Cage. Guitar. (Stone Records) came out in 2018.

In January 2020, I was Musician in Residence for a month at the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada where I began working on two more large arrangements, and I returned the project in May 2022 with a weeklong residency in Clinton, New York at the Kirkland Arts Center.

The music has been very well received and the director of the John Cage Trust, Laura Kuhn, and host of ‘All Things Cage’ has had me on multiple times.

Cage’s music introduced me to many wonderful artists and expanded my understanding of the mid-20th century American music and art scene, but more importantly, the reaction of audience members to this music has been overwhelmingly positive.

Many musicians’ only relationship to Cage’s music comes from his later creations, so they are surprised to learn of the lyricism and beauty he composed. General audience actually love it.

Tell us about the title you chose for the new Bach CD (God’s Time), and its significance to the project.

As I mention in the liner note, pianist Seymour Bernstein introduced me to the work ‘Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit’ (God’s Time is the Very Best Time), BWV106, and asked me to arrange it for guitar. I knew right away it was a “keeper” and the title of the album had to be ‘God’s Time.’

As a musician knows, sometimes we play Bach and other times Bach plays us. It’s not on our time…

God’s Time features your transcriptions of various works Bach originally composed for keyboard. Bach’s music has long been the subject of transcriptions. Bach himself often repurposed his music for different pieces and performing forces. What is it about Bach’s music that makes it so attractive (and effective) for transcription?

The fact we don’t know much about Bach as a person, exactly how his music was played, except for an occasional tempo and dynamic marking, the general lack of direction, how it actually sounded at the time, and how it was received, allows for a great amount of freedom; the music can be shaped to reflect our own personal tastes.

I grew up hearing the amazing music played on a piano, not a period instrument, so I have accepted such changes from the start.

The variation and steadfast belief musicians have for their own interpretation made me adapt a little joke for Bach: If two musicians on a deserted island had to agree on how to interpret a Bach prelude, there would be three versions: one for each of them, and one they both dislike.

As a guitarist, the lack of original works by the famous European composers, made transcription for the guitar a cornerstone of the 20th century repertoire: Albéniz, Granados, Scarlatti, Piazzolla, and Handel. Today it is not uncommon to hear Mussorgsky or Cage on one guitar and Beethoven on two. It almost feels the common practice of transcribing popular music for various instruments that existed pre-recording era is starting to return.

My general belief: as long as music is being played and introduced to society it is a good thing.

What are some of your favorite Bach transcriptions by other artists, and what qualities in them do you find particularly compelling?

By far the most influential are those by Ferruccio Busoni. I know I heard the Bach-Busoni Chaconne prior to hearing it on violin or guitar.

Researching the album, I found he did quite a few other adjustments to Bach. I almost included Busoni’s version of the Little Fugue in C Minor, BWV 961 (played in D Minor), which has three more measures.

For a time, I had a small obsession with searching out various versions of the Chaconne, including the Brahms for piano left hand, Busoni’s, electric keyboard, multiple for cello, viola, harp, and even the choral-violin version of The Hilliard Ensemble & Christoph Poppen.

The work of the guitar duos, Presti and Lagoya, Assad Brothers and the Abreu Brothers cannot be overstated. The clarity of their playing and inventiveness of ornamentation are breathtaking. I also have a love for mid-20th century solo guitar transcriptions with their lovely colors and romantic rubato additions.

What are your thoughts on Leopold Stokowski’s kaleidoscopic orchestral transcriptions of Bach?

Love them. Bach pushed the instruments and voices at his disposal to their limits, so I would have a hard time believing he would not have done similarly with a 20th century orchestra.

What are your goals and challenges when transcribing Bach’s compositions?

Many years ago, I spoke about with organist/harpsichordist Peter Sykes, who famously transcribed Gustav Holst’s ‘The Planets’. He advised that transcriptions should sound as if they were written for the instrument. I think this to be wise advice.

With the Six Small Preludes and A Little Fugue, I wanted the works to sound as if they were written for guitar, while also acknowledging the keyboard lesson aspects for those who know them. For instance, though it was extremely difficult, I wanted to make sure ornaments in the bass voice of Prelude in C Major, BWV 924 were clear, and the tempo in Prelude in D Minor, BWV 962 was proper to feel the hemiolas, and the bass articulation in Prelude in C Minor, BWV 999 was somewhat close to the actual notation.

The Prelude and ‘Fiddle’ Fugue presented a whole new set of challenges as there are different versions for violin, organ, and lute. Julian Bream famously made his transcription from the lute and violin.

Again, Peter Sykes urged me to check out the organ version in D Minor, BWV 539, which includes a prelude. I was intrigued right away, as I always disliked how the lute version lacked a prelude, and when I read through the organ version, I knew it would be perfect on guitar.

In the fugue I saw so many dissonant notes that were playable on guitar, so I slowly started adding them to my Segovia & Tárrega scores and after a week or two I was writing out my own “new” version.

In your liner notes, you address the issue of retaining the keys of the original Bach works.

Though speculation of the spiritual meaning of keys and their effects on the listener, I do believe Bach was fully aware of the symbolism of each key. He doesn’t come across as a composer who left things to chance.

As a guitarist, I wanted to try to make sure that the album was not just in the standard ‘guitar keys’ (E, A, D).  Besides the use of the Capo, there are three tunings on the album: Standard, drop D, and G (5-G, 6-D).

Though Bach changed the key to multiple compositions to suit the instrument (see “fiddle” Fugue BWV 539/1000/1001), I did want to keep the original key when possible. For ‘God’s Time…’ and the Prelude in E Flat Minor, WTC I, BWV 853, I was able to keep the original keys of E Flat Minor and E Flat major by tuning my lowest string (6) from E/mi to D/re and then adding a Capo on the first fret.

Tell us about the repertoire on God’s Time, and why you chose it for transcription and performance.

Prelude, Fugue, Allegro in E Flat Major, BWV 998 (played in D Major) • A unique work that stands out from the lute suites in its lyricism, construction, and flexibility of interpretation. The technical approachability of the prelude is countered by the daunting six-minute, three-part and three-voice fugue of movement two. The binary allegro looks straightforward but asks many questions of the interpreter. The symbolism and mathematical relations of the movements inspire, and the fact that each movement has some sort of repetition invites the performer to ornament, which I do.

Prelude in C Major, WTC I, BWV 846 • Part of my repertoire for years, it was the right time to record it.

Prelude & Fiddle Fugue, BWV 539/1000 • Epic and see above.

God’s Time is the Very Best Time, BWV 106 • So many of us have experienced loss over the last two years, that it seemed like the right piece for the time.

Chromatic Fantasy in D Minor, BWV 903 • One of my favorite instrumental solos of Bach for its completely unique place in repertoire. The toccata opening, the recitative middle section with sudden flourishes, and the descending diminished chords of the closing, the knocking of death, only to finish on the warmest of D Major chords. Such a range of emotions that it could easily be considered a Sturm und Drang work a century later. Maybe it was foreshadowing the movement… Regardless, a masterpiece!

Prelude in E Flat Minor, WTC I, BWV 853 • I heard Richter’s performance of this prelude and knew I would need to make a version for guitar. The pacing, the floating melody that climbs and falls, the oscillating minor 2nds, the dotted rhythms, and warmth of the last four bars. Just magical.

Six Small Preludes and A Little Fugue • I am extremely proud of these transcriptions. From a pedological standpoint for guitar, they are wonderful additions to the repertoire that allow students to play smaller works by Bach that can be steppingstones to larger works. Musically, they contain a plethora of emotions that require a level of technical mastery but are also open enough that various tempos can be chosen and quite satisfying unto themselves.

In one of your transcriptions, that of the BWV 999 Prelude, you incorporate a bit of another Bach piece.

Yes, I have never been content with the Little Prelude in C Minor, BWV 999 ending on the dominant. It is accepted as that’s-the-way-it-is, but not for me. I was working on a transcription of Prelude 3 in C Major, WTC II, BWV 872, which I found to have a similar arpeggio motif and that also ends on the dominant before a coda finishes the piece. I stole the coda from BWV 872, transposed it to the dominant of D Minor (A Major), and added it to the end of BWV 999 as a new Coda. It is not perfect, but I think it follows the line of Busoni fixing the Prelude in C Minor, BWV 961, and a lot of fun to perform.

Some of the included Bach compositions have been previously transcribed by others. Did that impact your approach in your own transcriptions of the works?

Quite a bit and especially with the Prelude, Fugue, Allegro, BWV 998.

My instructors at the New England Conservatory, David Leisner and Eliot Fisk, are both well known for their transcriptions, so it seems very natural to make my own.

Leisner also expected his students to add ornament. His Bach recording is inspiring in this respect.

Are there other Bach compositions you’d like to transcribe?

Quite a few!

On another subject: In the Nov/Dec 2021 issue of Fanfare (45:2), I had the pleasure of reviewing Vols. 2 and 3 (Stone Records) of you performing works from your The New Lullaby Project. Tell us about that project and the recordings.

The New Lullaby Project began in 2007 to bridge the chasm of fear composers have for writing for the guitar and audiences towards listening to contemporary music. Since then, over 65 composers from 10 countries have had their new lullabies premiered, with number 71 receiving its premiere in October 2022.

The first album, New Lullaby, came out in 2010, followed by volumes 2 and 3 (Nights Transfigured and Drifting) in 2020 and 2021 with 46 having been recorded to date.

In 2020, in partnership with the American Composers Alliance, we published the first anthology of scores, Nights Transfigured, which earned multiple Revere Awards from the Music Publishers Association of the United States. Volume 2, Hushed, was published in 2021.

More recordings and publications are in the works.

While we’re on the subject of your other recordings, Colin Clarke (Fanfare 46:1, Sept/Oct 2022) reviewed honey cadence, a collection of your own compositions for guitar. Take us on a brief tour of this endeavor, please!

honey cadence explores some of my favorite aspects of the guitar: timbre, harmonics, string bends, and having the same pitch in multiple places on the instrument. Each title has something to do with a musical direction: cadence, moving, nuance, anticipation, play. Musically they are influenced by John Cage, bits of Bach, and Villa-Lobos, with nods to Ravel and even Queen. The latter weren’t necessarily conscious, but I hear them now.

I’m very proud of finally entering this new artistic realm, and the response has been outstanding with over 700K streams since its release in April 2022!

What future endeavors are on the horizon?

  • ACA publication of honey cadence scores.
  • Edition Peters publication of a solo by Alan Hovhaness.
  • A guitar and electronics project, which has heard premieres by Tom Flaherty, Lou Bunk, and Lainie Fefferman. Videos online.
  • A large work by Daniel Felsenfeld, his first guitar solo.
  • New Lullaby Project premieres, recording, and publishing.
  • A micro-opera by Richard Cameron-Wolfe.
  • And a great project: Carnatic Preludes, After J.S. Bach with composer Vineet Shende (Bowdoin College). Shende re-imagines WTC preludes as if Bach were from South India and we pair them to my own transcriptions of Bach’s originals. We started in 2017 and have only a couple left.

The horizon is full of music!

Aaron Larget-Caplan’s website: https://alcguitar.com

 

BACH (arr. Larget-Caplan) Prelude, Fugue, and Allegro in E-flat, BWV998. The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1: Prelude No. 1 in C, BWV846; Prelude No. 8 in e-flat, BWV853. Prelude and Fugue in d, “Fiddle” BWV539-1000. God’s Time is the

Very Best Time, “Actus tragicus”, BWV106. Chromatic Fantasy in d, BWV903. Twelve Little Preludes: in C, BWV924; in d, BWV926; in g, BWV930; in c, BWV999-872. Fugue in c, BWV961. Six Little Preludes: in c, BWV 934. Five Little Preludes: in C, BWV939  • Aaron Larget-Caplan (gtr) • Tiger Turn (888-09) • (Streaming audio: 49:02)