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Bach to Parker
Track listing below review
Thomas Gould (violin)
David O’Brien (bass: Davis)
rec. 2013, Music Room, Champs Hill, West Sussex, UK

As Thomas Gould relates in his introduction to the booklet notes, the genesis of this disc was a recital programme in which he interspersed movements from Bach’s solo sonatas and partitas with some of the new works to be heard here. The process was intended to show how the techniques required by composers of today were rooted in Bach’s contrapuntalism. It seems that he has somewhat modified the interspersion in favour of the single monolithic Chaconne with which the programme begins, thus somewhat altering the perspective. Rather than those single interspersed Bachian movements, the Chaconne now stands as the fons et origo, a monumental columnar vantage on the work of some of our contemporaries.

Whether or not this is because what works in a recital doesn’t work so well in terms of home consumption, given that one can pick and choose the piece, or simply cut short the listening, it’s nevertheless good to hear works closely associated with Gould. It’s good also to hear his unhurried, quite expressive reading of the Chaconne. It’s not over-articulated, nor is he much taken by the need for contrastive bowing. Instead one hears fluidity, fluency and a rather lateral approach. The rest of the programme sees a number of premiere recordings. Gould has performed the music of Nico Muhly frequently and plays A Long Line with assurance, securely inside its use of accompanied pre-recorded electronics, which provides the grit against which Gould’s violin exhales in long or more short-breathed phrases. Graham Williams draws on Stravinskian elements in his Mr Punch, a tersely fragmented but interesting opus, whilst Anna Meredith’s Charged ignites into crunchy chordal movement, decisively athletic.

All the music is for solo violin with some accompanying electronica, as noted, so much is down to the interpretative and instrumental skill of Gould. Nimrod Borenstein – born in Israel, raised in France – is represented by Quasi Una Cadenza, composed in 2002, which starts like the opening of the Kreutzer Sonata and seems to pay homage to Bachian elements in a similar way to Ysa˙e when he encoded Bach in his solo sonatas - not least the one dedicated to Jacques Thibaud. In this work Gould uses a more intense vibrato than anywhere else in the recital and it’s no surprise to read that Borenstein trained as a violinist. Ewan Campbell’s Two Extremes requires circular bowing – the contemporary fiddle equivalent, I suppose, of circular breathing for a Jazz saxophone player. Ceaseless motion in Rare Nothings is thus the result. In the second piece, a tribute from the composer to the performer’s virtuosity, Everything, All at Once utilises that rather overused trope, the Fibonacci series, though here it’s put to effective use.

La Baroque by Aziza Sadikova is another piece dedicated to Gould and whilst it does indeed nod backwards it also serves up some abrasive, nasal sonorities. Each of these pieces has, as one might expect, its own distinct character. Dai Fujikura’s Kusmetche is predicated on taut Bulgarian-derived dance motifs, whilst Mark Bowden is another to employ electronica. In his case, Lines Written a Few Miles Below – the sly poetic allusion is to Wordsworth - focuses on urgent train wheels driving along the underground railway: funky and exciting. John Hawkins’ Bebop neatly enshrines its jazz theme in this piece composed in 2004 for violinist Emily Pringle. With a certain logic Miles Davis’ Donna Lee ends the recital. David O’Brien is the enlisted bass player. I’m sure Gould knows his Grappelli but from the sound of things he also knows his Stuff Smith too, and that’s certainly no bad thing.

This beautifully recorded and well annotated disc is unusual and wide-ranging. Thomas Gould seems to have the knack of making valuable and engaging discs.

Jonathan Woolf

Track listing
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Partita No.2 in D minor, BWV1004: Chaconne [15:10]
Nico MUHLY (b.1981)
A Long Line [6:46]
Graham WILLIAMS (b.1938)
Mr Punch (2011) [5:37]
Anna MEREDITH (b.1978)
Charged (2007) [3:58]
Nimrod BORENSTEIN (b.1969)
Quasi una Cadenza (2002) [5:46]
Ewan CAMPBELL (b.1983)
Two Extremes (2013) [9:03]
Aziza SADIKOVA (b.1978)
La Baroque (2012) [3:55]
Dai FUJIKURA (b.1977)
Kusmetche (2013) [2:09]
Mark BOWDEN (b.1979)
Lines Written A Few Miles Below [10:55]
John HAWKINS (b.1949)
Bobop (2004) [4:33]
Miles DAVIS (1926-1991)
Donna Lee (1947) [2:24]



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