Hey, at least it’s on four strings!

We interrupt our previously scheduled posting to bring this snapshot from the zeitgeist: The Bach Prelude No. 1 in G Major on the Mandolin, as performed on NPR. (Click on the blue NPR to see/hear the whole interview.)

It is not lost on me that the mandolin bears a strong resemblance to the cittern, instrument of the Bach patriarch Viet, at least in that they are both plucked treble instruments of ancient lineage. (For more on that, see my last post, “Do Re Mi.”)

Mandolinist Avi Avital has a new recording out titled Bach and had this to say:

“There is something about the music of Bach which sets him apart from any other composer that I know,” he says. “It is so absolute and so divine and so universal, that the instrument you play on … is not really the main thing that matters. In other words, if you hear Bach’s music on any instrument, it’s probably one of the few composers that you immediately recognize — It’s Bach! — and it’s as powerful as for whatever instrument it’s written originally.”

It’s a lovely rendition, very delicate. Without the baritone resonance of the cello, a different mood is created and without the sustaining power of the bow, the performer depends particularly on subtle rhythmic variation for shaping and emphasis. Still, it is without a doubt the same piece of music. “Absolute” and “universal” indeed.

About cellonancy

Principal Cello Oregon Symphony
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