The Transcendence of Bach on Guitar

WCRB's CD of the Week is Guitarist Thibaut Garcia’s new recording, which dips into the vast palette of colors that he’s known for, this time applying them to music inspired by Bach.

Thibaut Garcia is only 24. When he was a young boy in Toulouse, France, he used to love his father’s passionate, amateur guitar playing. So it’s fitting that on a recording that explores the many roads that lead to Bach, he opens with one of his father’s favorites, Agustín Barrios’s “La Catedral.” Thibaut channels the melancholy of the prelude as if he’d written it himself. The music conjures a striking memory of an organist playing Bach in a great cathedral, and the finale represents the bright and shocking contrast of the bustling world just beyond the cathedral’s doors.

With Bach introduced in this beautiful and prismatic way, the recording unfolds. For the cornerstone of the CD, Garcia has worked out his own guitar version of Bach’s famously profound Chaconne from the D minor Violin Partita. He has remained very faithful to the score itself, looking first, he says, to find the essence of the music’s meaning as Bach expressed it on the violin. The result has both strength and intimacy, and plenty of color.

Other pieces are wonderful discoveries. The five inventions by the Polish composer/pianist Alexandre Tansman are a joy to hear; and Serbian-American composer/guitarist Dušan Bogdanović’s Suite Brève, published just last year and subtitled Hommage à J.S. Bach, sparkles in the same way that Bach’s suites do.

Soprano Elsa Dreisig adds another level to the recording by joining Thibaut in the stunning Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 by Heitor Villa-Lobos, a wordless vision of Bach through a loving Brazilian lens. She also sings Gounod’s simple and touching “Ave Maria” – a lovely melody superimposed over Bach’s first prelude from his Well-Tempered Clavier.

When Garcia performed here at WCRB's Fraser Performance Studio just after releasing his last album, we knew right away that he would have a very exciting follow-up. This is an album that takes you on a beautiful and unexpected excursion through many reflected worlds of Bach, with gorgeous recorded sound and soulful performing from Thibaut Garcia.

Watch a performance of a track from the album:

For more information and to purchase this recording, visit ArkivMusic.