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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Bach to Cuba
Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 (1st Movement) [4.15]
Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 (1st Movement) [3.14]
Suite No. 3 BWV 1068 (Aria) [4.01]
Suite No. 2 BWV 1067 (Badinerie) [1.20]
Brandenburg Concerto No.3 (3rd Movement) [5.40]
Brandenburg Concerto No.5 (3rd. Movement) [5.30]
Suite No 2 BWV 1067 (Rondeau) [1.34]
Brandenburg Concerto No 4 (3rd Movement) [5.11]
Suite No 3 BWV 1068 (Gavotte) [4.57]
Tenerife Symphony Orchestra/Emilio Aragon 
rec. live, Juan Ramos, Auditorio de Tenerife, 14-17 June 2006


This is an interesting CD with movements from the Brandenburg concertos and Orchestral suites deploying a superb Cuban percussion section. It was devised by Emilio Aragon (b. 1959), a Cuban composer who now lives and works in Spain. Aragon has a love for Caribbean and classical music and here aims to blend the two genres. The Tenerife Symphony Orchestra play with three acclaimed Cuban percussionists - Jaime Udicio Vasquez, Juan Aramis Viera and Pedro Pablo Rodriguez. Alain Perez replaces Bach's traditional bass line with a Cuban 'Tumblao' salsa bass below the violin, oboe or cello parts.

The first two tracks  - the first movements of Brandenburg Nos. 3 and 5 - receive a fairly conventional treatment (although Track 2 is shortened). The string playing is tight and dry but dominated by the percussion who play in a much more resonant setting. The electric bass more or less uses Bach's rhythms but in a Cuban style.

Tracks 3 and 4 feature the famous Aria and Badinerie from the Orchestra Suites 2 and 3. Here the percussion is used in a more accompanying role and is less persuasive. Track 4 has a good flute solo by Catherine Mooney. The next track (5) starts and ends with a guitar solo on the Venezuelan cuatro played by Thao Raiz and promises something different. However it soon settles into much the same as before with the percussion playing a purely subsidiary role. Much the same happens on Track 6 with the percussion keeping the beat throughout and a welcome relief from it at the end!

One would hope that with the introduction of another Brandenburg - that of No. 4 on Track 7 - we may be treated to something different. However, despite some good recorder solos from Mooney and Tamsin Cadman, and a decent violin soloist in Jarolim Ruzicka, we are offered much the same again.

Tracks 8 and 9 feature some fairly bland string and wind playing with the occasional syncopated rhythmic interjection from the percussionists. It appears that the percussion often find little to do apart from purely 'accompanying'. Maybe this is because Bach's music does not need to 'swing' or be jazzed up!

What should DG offer by way of the grand finale on Track 10? Their choice - the Gavotte from Suite No.2 - leaves us slightly bewildered and perhaps wishing there was more of this on the CD. This version of the Gavotte begins and ends with percussion solos which appear to be in a world of their own and playing badly out of time. At least it is something different and original and there is an interesting vocal at the end.

Overall this is an interesting and worthwhile project which although it can become rather tedious at times is a good 'fun' treatment of Bach.

Lynda Baker




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