> Bach - Transcriptions I [KM]: Classical CD Reviews- July2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Transcriptions I

Partita in A minor BWV 827
Sinfonia no. 1 BWV 787
Italian Concerto BWV 971
Sinfonia no. 15 BWV 801
French Suite no. 2 BWV 813
Vera Hilger, violin
Norbert Hilger, cello
Rec: September 2000, Taufkapelle der Peterskirche, Leipzig, Germany.
QUESTAND VKJK 0104 [53.31]



Vera and Norbert Hilger had a very interesting idea in transcribing some of Bach’s keyboard works for violin and cello. Who would have thought that such transcriptions could work so well? After all, Bach’s keyboard works are intensely polyphonic, and two instruments alone would reduce that polyphony to two simple lines of melody. Yet, somehow, it works. Their transcriptions bring out the essence of these keyboard works with a truly unique sound.

The choice of works is interesting. One could probably transcribe all of Bach’s keyboard music in this manner, but certain works seem to lend themselves to this approach. The Italian Concerto is a particularly felicitous choice. The opening movement almost sounds, on this recording, as though it was composed for this duo, and the cello’s pizzicato accompaniment in the second movement is quite unique. Certain movements of the A minor Partita seem to work better than others, such as the gigue with its energetic, contrapuntal sound.

The playing varies greatly on this disc - from the somewhat uninspired allemande of the A minor Partita, to the resolutely energetic courante that follows it; from the sublime sound of some of the slower movements to the imperfect tone of the violin in several places. The slower movements are probably the weakest, and occasionally sound too wooden, but in most of the faster movements there is an energy that accompanies the distinctive sound of this duo, and which brings Bach’s music to life in a new way.

This is certainly a unique recording. While the playing varies, the overall sound is so interesting that one can overlook the occasional weaknesses. The Hilgers have done something very interesting here, something definitely worth exploring for those interested in "alternative" Bach recordings.

Kirk McElhearn

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