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

Nancy Ives is Principal Cello of the Oregon Symphony and received a DMA and MM from the Manhattan School of Music and a BM from the University of Kansas. She has been featured soloist with the Oregon Symphony as well as orchestras in the Northeast, Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Nancy is Instructor of Chamber Music at Lewis & Clark College; a member of fEARnoMUSIC, the Palatine Piano Trio and the Rose City Piano Trio; and is active as a teacher and recording artist. She is a frequent guest of groups such as Chamber Music Northwest, 45th Parallel, Portland Piano International Summer Festival, Third Angle, Pink Martini and Portland Cello Project. Her composition Shard is featured on a recent PCP album, to e.s.. She is a founder of Classical Up Close, has served on the Board of Directors of the Oregon Symphony and currently serves on the Board at All Classical Portland. Nancy blogs at nancyives.com.
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