Bach album both spiritual and vivacious



Yo-Yo Ma, Chris Thile and Edgar Meyer

Nonesuch 7559-79392-0

5 stars

The trio of cellist Yo-Yo Ma, mandolinist Chris Thile and bassist Edgar Meyer make no pretensions about the authenticity of their album of music by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750).

All the pieces are co-written arrangements for their peculiar combination of instruments. The performances, however, sound unusually idiomatic, as if contemporary with the Baroque period itself.

Ma and Thile alternate between and share the melodic lines while Meyer provides the just-as-vital backing, with much counterpoint in between. Thus, works such as the Trio Sonata No. 6 In G Major (BWV.530, originally for organ) and Sonata In G Minor (BWV.1029, for viola da gamba and keyboard) - the two longest pieces and both in three movements - make for excellent showcases.

Also significant is the Prelude And Fugue In E Minor (BWV.548, for organ), known as "The Wedge" because of the widening intervals in its fugue, which receives an absorbing performance despite sounding quite different from the original.

More familiar are the Chorale Preludes Wachet Auf (Sleepers Awake), Ich Ruft Zu Dir (I Call To Thee) and Erbarme Dich Mein (Have Mercy On Me), as well as selections from The Well-Tempered Clavier and The Art Of Fugue.

Both spiritual and vivacious, this album yet again demonstrates the timelessness of Bach.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 17, 2019, with the headline 'Bach album both spiritual and vivacious'. Print Edition | Subscribe