Remember the first time you thought, sadly, that you had polished off a box of chocolates, and then discovered it had two levels? That glorious feeling of lifting the delicate white foamboard separator to see a fresh army of caramels and nut clusters? That's how I feel about two-CD sets. It's like having two desserts!
A new two-disc set of Bach flute sonatas is the latest delight to capture my fancy. There's a mathematical precision to the music of Bach, an evocation of gears and machinery, and of myriad intricate pieces meshing together. But somehow, all this precision results in something that's not at all mechanical. In fact, it's downright sensuous. In the best hands, Bach's music conjures up images not unlike the opening credits of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory--a complicated series of moving parts, processing in balletic swirls and creating chocolate kisses.
And we do have some of the best hands--six of them--on this new recording from flutist Marina Piccinini and the Brasil Guitar Duo.
Piccinini says she fell hard for these works early on, a love she describes as "wild abandon." Then, as she grew as a performer and began studying in earnest, her relationship with Bach matured as well. She got to know the ins and outs, the structure, the interwoven harmonies. And she loved it even more.
The final piece of the puzzle for her was spending a summer playing the obbligato lines (that's an accompanying counter-melody) for a series of master classes--vocal master classes. She said "hearing and feeling the impact of the words not just for their meaning but also for the natural colours of the vowels and consonants" enabled her to incorporate that singing-related vocal colorization into her own performance of Bach. Listen to the Adagio movement from the Sonata in C, BWV 1033 for a taste.
Maria Piccinini's partners in this confectionary shop are Joao Luiz and Douglas Lora. Together, they're the Brasil Guitar Duo. They're as comfortable playing the traditional dance music of Brazil as they are with the powdered-wig stuff. As a matter of fact, their street-music sensibilities might be why the rhythms of this CD have such a fluid feel. They took the original keyboard parts by Bach and adapted them for 2 guitars. The substitution of guitars for a harpsichord or piano gives these performances a more intimate feel--the difference between a state dinner with complicated place settings and layers of protocol, and a long dinner party with good friends.
Don't get me wrong--this unbuttoned feeling has to do with atmosphere and emotion, not any sloppiness of execution. Piccinini and the Brasil Guitar Duo have created a perfect balance of clockwork precision and melt-in-your mouth indulgence.