David Russell has always been a musician of taste and
considered interpretations; this latest offering of an all Bach programme
from him is no exception. All the hallmark characteristics of his playing
are here: the skilfully used phrasing (crucial whenever negotiating
the complex architecture of Bach’s music), the beautifully executed
ornaments, seemingly placed in those obvious places yet still taking
you by surprise plus that purity of tone, with its sonority so clear
and full, make for a listening experience of the highest order.
Starting with the "Prelude, Fugue and Allegro"
BWV 998 the authority of the playing immediately lets you know that
as far as Bach on the guitar is concerned this is going to be an event.
Like the opening work, the "Suite No. 4" BWV 1006a is attributed
to Bach’s compositions for lute (however it also exists as the "Violin
Partita No. 3" BWV 1006) and has long been a favourite among guitarists
but David Russell’s reading is akin to new light through old windows.
Although transcriptions of Bach’s Sonatas for Violin
have been very popular with guitarists, complete recordings of the Partitas
for Violin Nos. 1 and 2 have proved to be less forthcoming.
[* Hear, Paul Galbraith "Bach: The Violin Sonatas and Partitas"
complete, DE3232]. Here David Russell presents us with his own arrangement
of the "Partita for Violin No. 2", BWV 1004 in its entirety,
the last movement being the much celebrated and monumental "Chaconne".
This piece, often played on its own by guitarists, is something of a
mountain to be climbed, a rite of passage, often treated in a dramatic
way (particularly the opening). David Russell tends to avoid this approach
and integrates the movement into the work maintaining the structure
as a whole in a very satisfying way and in so doing excels expectations
raised by many guitarists’ recording today.
This is again demonstrated in his playing of the Chorale
Prelude "Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme," BWV 645 (from the
eponymous cantata BWV 140) and the "Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring"
(from Cantata No.147) where Russell seems to adopt a more portamento
style, creating a very smooth texture to the playing which is so
appropriate given the vocal nature of the originals.
If I were limited to only one disc of Bach played on
the guitar this would be a very strong contender.