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Reviews: Georg Gulyás plays Bach II

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Reviews: 3

Review by Jonalogic May 10, 2011 (3 of 7 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
This is going to be one of my shortest ever reviews (hurrah, I can hear you all shout...)

Those of you you have heard Volume 1 won't need to read it, as you will have already ordered or be listening to Volume 2.

To those who have not had the pleasure, however, Gulyas's playing is poised, refined and expressive. Married to Opus 3's trademark crystalline, transparent sound, the result is unnalloyed pleasure.

The core pieces - originally lute transcriptions of the well-known cello suite (BWV995) and violin partita (BWV 1006a) - sound as though they were composed by Bach for the guitar.

Unless you have an irrational hatred of both Bach and classical guitar, you will enjoy this mightily.

That's it. I don't need to say any more. Superb.

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Review by Fugue June 3, 2011 (3 of 4 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
I concur. This release is every bit as fine as volume 1. He has a new instrument for this recording, which has a bit less pronounced mid range than the previous one, which I find appealing. As before, he plays these pieces with amazing clarity, and his articulation brings out voices that other guitarists often gloss over. While not as overtly showy as Eliot Fisk or Kazuhito Yamashita, he plays with plenty of feeling and has a far warmer tone than either of those players. I did notice a slightly more distant perspective in the last piece, Prelude, Fugue, and Allegro BWV 998 than in the other pieces. The sessions were many months apart, so presumably the engineer didn't take detailed notes on the mic placement! (Hence the 1/2 star penalty!) Gulyas is one of the few guitarists who plays the Allegro movement at an actual allegro tempo rather than at a presto or even prestissimo as some that I have heard! His more moderate tempo allows the actual music to emerge more clearly rather than reducing the piece to a mere technical stunt. Highly recommended.

Addendum: after a few more listening sessions, I'm downgrading to four audio stars--it's too reverberant and obscures some of the bass notes. (Either that or he isn't plucking them hard enough!) :-)

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Review by canonical November 28, 2011 (2 of 6 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:
If you like your Bach transformed into elevator muzac, then this is the disc for you. I find it bland and boring, and ever so dull. Bach's music famously transcribes well to almost anything but alas not here. Here it seems heavy, banal and trifling lacking its usual complexity and any subtlety of expression.

Most of the works presented here have been transcribed from the Partitas for Solo Violin, or from the Suites for Solo Cello. One would be much better off sticking to the originals with superb SACD recordings such as:

Bach: Cello Suites - Gavriel Lipkind
Bach: Six Suites for Solo Cello - Janos Starker
Bach: Sonatas & Partitas - Julia Fischer

One might perhaps be inclined to suggest that the disc is unsuccessful because both the violin and cello are better equipped to play counterpoint - to play (and sustain) one part, while others are free to move. Perhaps. And yet, I have many other conversions of these same suites to lute / guitar which work far more successfully than they do on this disc. Indeed, if one seeks a guitar version on SACD, then the 1977 recording by Eliot Fisk (a student of Segovia) is incomparably better, both in sonics and performance:

Eliot Fisk plays Bach and Scarlatti (Volume 6)

Fisk is lively, entertaining, and far from dull (and even then, Fisk is still far from being a favourite disc of mine).


SUMMARY of GULYAS SACD:

* Performance: BORING. Ornamentation is trite. The disc rapidly induces fatigue, despite otherwise competent playing.

* Sonics: average. The sonics are too reverberant for my taste but of more concern to me as an SACD is that it doesn't sound hi-res to my ears. It sounds like a digital CD. It sounds harsh. I don't find the sound pleasant, or indeed natural. The SACD may be better than the CD layer - but it is still not appealing. Not for my keep pile.

Performance: 2.5
Sonics: 2.5 (reviewed in stereo)
Box: old-fashioned CD casing
Recording resolution: unstated

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