One of the most exceptional things about the music of J.S. Bach is that it can withstand transcription to virtually any instrumental medium, from grandiose Wagner-size orchestra to sopranino recorder and just about anything in between or beside, including Moog synthesizer as evidenced by Wendy Carlos some half a century ago. The latest example to cross my desk is an album titled Invention featuring violinist Tessa Lark and contrabass player Michael Thurber (larkandthurber.com). On this disc, seven of Bach’s two-part inventions are interspersed with original “inventions” by Lark and Thurber, drawing on diverse influences from Appalachia to New Orleans, running the gamut of Americana, but also encompassing their skill as classical musicians. The juxtaposition works surprisingly well, from the lilting Wooden Soldier that leads into the first two-part invention, dear to my heart since learning it for my Grade Six Royal Conservatory exam and performing it on my teacher’s harpsichord (handmade by her husband Jan Albarda), to the sombre strains of Until We Meet Again, with its echoes of the Celtic fiddle laments brought to American shores some hundreds of years ago. A satisfying and eclectic look at simple counterpoint.
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