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Comparison recordings: Bach Lute music (Complete)

Paul Galbraith, 8-str. guitar (omits BWV 999 and 1000) Delos DE 3258
Jakob Lindberg, 13 course baroque lute BIS 587/8
Konrad Junghänel, 13 course baroque lute Harmonia Mundi 77097-2-RC


‘Baroque Guitar Recital’
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Prelude in d, BWV999 (1721) [1.40] (originally written in c for the lute)
Fugue in a, BWV1000 (1720) [5.30] (originally written in g for the lute)
Suite in e, BWV996 (1722) [19.02]
Gaspar SANZ (c1640-1710)

Pavana (1674) [3.56]
Canarios (1674) [1.24]
Fernando SOR (1778-1839)

Fantasy and Minuet (1830) [9.49]
Sylvius Leopold WEISS (1686-1750)

Passacaille [4.24]
Fantasie [2.02]
Tombeau sur la mort de M. Comte de Logy (1721) [6.06]
Robert de VISÉE (c1650-1725)

Suite in d (1686) [11.42]
Julian Bream (guitar)
Notes in English and German
Recorded 1965 [ADD] Mastered in 24 bit at 96 kHz
BMG RCA RED SEAL 09026 64001 2 [65.23]


The implication from reading the cover of this disk is that this is a high resolution CD, when in fact it plays back in 16/44 sound like every other CD. The mastering from analogue sources at higher resolution means that digital enhancement routines can be applied to the resulting high resolution digital file; these will degrade the sound to some degree, but the subsequent downsampling to 16/44 will mask this degradation and result in a superior sounding recording than if the enhancements had been applied to a lower resolution mastering. When these recordings are compared to the original CD releases mastered directly in 16/44 one can see that digital hum filtering and hiss reduction have been applied. There is also greater dynamic range and clarity, when compared to the original 16/44 CD releases. But this is not a DVD-Audio disk.

These recordings were made at various times and places and released on LP and then on CD as part of the "Julian Bream Collection" on BMG/RCA. This enhanced sound anthology is a well chosen sample of some of the better recordings from Julian Bream’s considerable discography. This is probably the best sounding and most musically interesting (6-string) guitar Baroque anthology disk you could buy. But if you already own the original disks, be advised that these are the same recordings, albeit sounding a little clearer.

The notes point out that a ‘Baroque’ guitar had 5 pairs of strings rather than the six single strings of the modern guitar. I have been unable to find a picture of Bream playing any type of guitar other than the modern 6-string instrument, and I assume that is what he is using for this disk. It is not surprising that some of the lute works have had to be transposed to be played on the modern guitar since the lute has a greater range than the guitar. The Bach tracks here are probably the best 6-string guitar performances of these works. Lindberg’s lute is a thinner sounding instrument and Lindberg is further from the microphone than Bream, whereas Junghänel is more closely miked and hence richer sounding. Paul Galbraith performing on an 8-string guitar is generally superior in sound, concept and clarity of articulation. Lindberg and Galbraith show the most imagination in improvising ornaments on repeats. Junghänel plays skilfully but without much emotion. Bream’s performance of the Sarabande of the e-minor suite is one of his finest recordings, one of the finest guitar recordings ever made, but Galbraith and Lindberg give him a close race. The lute disks and the Bream disk have some high frequency finger-scrape noises, whereas the Galbraith disks have none, and Galbraith’s sound is warmer in tone. Either Galbraith is a more articulate performer, or some electronic filtering has been applied to remove the noises.

The performances clearly show the genius of Weiss, friend of Bach, probably the greatest lute virtuoso of all time, from whom we have so little written music. The other works are all very interesting and worthy of their companions on this disk.

Paul Shoemaker

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