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William Carter - Bach Reimagines Bach - Gramophone

20 April 2017
William Yeoman

‘So here are 3 degrees of reimagination for your consideration. My own minimalist effort, Bach's mild refashioning of BWV1006 with a bass line and some ornaments, and then the wonderful transmutation that is BWV995. I hope they all give pleasure!'

Indeed they do. Guitarist and lutenist extraordinaire, continuo player to the stars Bill Carter, who in typically cheerful mood ends his entertaining and informative booklet-note with the above, has finally ventured forth into the miniature universe that is JS Bach's music for solo lute (after Bach's own works for solo violin or cello), following years exploring more far-flung regions such as the Baroque guitar music of Francesco Corbetta and Santiago de Murcia. It has been worth the wait.

Carter was a student of Nigel North, whose complete recordings of Bach's solo violin and cello music transcribed for lute is one of the jewels in Linn Records' crown. He brings his former teacher's devotion to seeing Bach's music as a language in which one must strive to be fluent with an ear for the colouristic possibilities of the lute born of years performing with orchestras and chamber ensembles.

Thus there is the soloist's suppleness and flexibility of phrase; but there is also the obvious enjoyment of pure sonority and tints and shades of tone. These qualities are most evident in the freer preludes of the G minor Sonata and Suite; but there is a lovely use of notes inégales in the Siciliana and the Courante of both suites as well, while other dance movements benefit from Carter's deceptively subtle, distinctive imagination.

Tempos are, when compared with a player such as Hopkinson Smith's in the same works, somewhat on the leisurely side. That's because Carter isn't in a hurry to get anywhere. He arrived a long time ago.

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