KUNIKO - J.S. Bach: Solo Works for Marimba - Gramophone

The marimba player Kuniko wisely focuses on the Cello Suites and Solo Violin Sonatas, works that would seem to lend themselves more readily to transcription than, say, the more intricate textures of the keyboard Partitas. She contributes highly personal notes in the booklet about what Bach means to her, offering a very specific narrative for every piece she chooses. Of the Allegro assai from the Third Violin Sonata, for instance, we get: ‘In a dazzling light, is that an angel or a child with white feathers on his back? Children are gathering and playing. Is this the sky or heaven? Where is this place?’ There’s no doubting her sincerity, but unfortunately she seems to smother this music with love and nothing is allowed to speak for itself. Rhythms are bent out of shape and lose their power, movements are slowed down to make an effect (the gigues of the Cello Suites are particularly prone to this), certain notes are over-accentuated. And the haze of sound that you get where more than one note is sounding simultaneously – for instance in the Prelude of the First Cello Suite or the Adagio of the C major Violin Sonata – is something of an acquired taste.

That relaxed, effortless flow of sound is enticing with Kuniko’s toothsome transcriptions for marimba of Bach solo works (Linn), the resonance and tonality of the instrument and the feeling of the space in which it was recorded being strikingly resolved.

Gramophone
01 October 2017