A great favorite with guitarists, this piece. Nice to get a new perspective once in awhile.
Bach wrote this for the violin, then he arranged it for the lute, which gave us all a great model to work from when we want to adapt Bach to the guitar. But here we hear the violin version brought straight over to the mandolin, with none of the additional bass notes of the lute version.
Why am I posting a mandolin video on a guitar blog? Well, I was tripping around YouTube listening to Bach here in the wee hours of the morning and I happened to find this brilliant bit of video on Thile, whom I’d never heard before. That led me to more videos from Thile, and in one of them he has some advice for guitarists wanting to cross over to the mandolin. At one point, while discussing the technical challenges, he drops a great bit of advice to guitarists. He says, “Don’t play the guitar — play music!”
Then I remembered this isn’t a mandolin video after all….
Philip Hii’s arrangement and performance of Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D Minor is a milestone achievement in the history of the classical guitar. Barriers were broken.
Impressed by the musical judgment behind the creation of this arrangement, fascinated by the rare powers of technical execution I was hearing, and thankful that Philip Hii had pulled it all together and put it out there, I listened to this recording many times when it first came out back in the ’90s. (Listen to the brilliant samples.)
Later, I bought the sheet music and tried to play the arrangement, but it was beyond me. I almost couldn’t believe that anyone could play it.
Today, from a link on Philip Hii’s website (pronounced “hee,” by the way), I discovered this video on YouTube. What a treat for me!
Seeing is believing.. 🙂
When I first approached Bach’s ‘cello suites, I listened carefully to Janos Starker and Pablo Casals. I tried to use their ideas as best I could on the guitar.
But the results weren’t good. I couldn’t reproduce the great-hearted sound I was hearing from the ‘cello. I gave up on the project after a few weeks.
Then, several months later, I heard Walter Gerwig delicately play some of the ‘cello music on lute. “That’s beautiful!” I thought. “How can that music work so well on the lute — an instrument that is even less gutsy than the guitar?”
The answer came: He’s not trying to make his lute sound like a ‘cello, of course!
It was a milestone lesson for me: Don’t try to make the guitar sound like a ‘cello, or a piano, or a lute, or anything else. Go to what is most beautiful about the guitar and bring that forward. Play as if Bach had written the music to showcase how beautiful a guitar can sound.