A Bach Notebook - Jonathan Freeman-Attwood - Gramophone

On trumpet, 11 Bachs spanning two centuries That Johann Sebastian Bach was one of a large family of Bachs is well known, but this disc brings forward no fewer than 11 Bachs who flourished between 1615 and 1796. Aided by the young South African pianist Daniel-Ben Pienaar, who has made the arrangements, Jonathan Freeman-Attwood, distinguished academic (current principal of the Royal Academy of Music) as well as fellow critic on Gramophone, demonstrates his virtuosity on the trumpet. As he explains, the aim is to view all these 20 works through a 20th-century prism, ‘dressing the music in new clothes', using instruments - valve trumpet and grand piano - unknown when most of this music was written.

The result is a lively romp, not at all like an academic exercise, with JSB standing out even above such brilliant sons as Carl Philipp Emanuel and Johann Christian. These three are the only ones who transcend their respective periods, JSB monumentally so; but as presented here, all these Bachs emerge freshly with plenty to say, whether reflecting the period of Monteverdi and the Gabrielis or that of the Baroque.

The quality that runs consistently through these performances is vigour, with rhythmic bite in sprung rhythms. Not that it is a disc to play in one sitting, for the ripe sound of the trumpet, as recorded in the helpful acoustic of St George's, Brandon Hill, Bristol does tend to get overpowering. That's the only reservation about a disc that brings to life all 11 Bachs, with their sequence of confusingly similar names. A totally refreshing disc.

01 March 2013