Review by: John Greene

Artistic Quality: 10

Sound Quality: 10

The composer/lutenist Daniel Bacheler (1572-1619) was very well known in his day and has remained highly regarded by lutenists ever since. His works have been included on many CD and LP compilations over the years, but this is the first time there has been a recital devoted exclusively to him. In this program titled “The Bachelar’s Delight” lutenist Paul O’Dette performs 26 selections (just over half of Bacheler’s extant lute oeuvre) that attest to this longstanding admiration. The level of skill required to negotiate many of the often complex passages clearly indicates Bacheler was technically on par with any of his peers; though due largely to his unconventional fascination–if not obsession–with French performance practice, his originality and invention far exceeds the norm.

Take for instance Mounsieurs Almaine, one of Bacheler’s most famous works (previously recorded by O’Dette for Nonesuch on a program titled Robin is to the Greenwood Gone), the piece that sparked O’Dette’s interest in the lute when he heard Julian Bream’s recording of it 35 years ago. It begins unassumingly enough–thematically simple and tunefully charming, typical of Elizabethan fare; though after a couple of minutes Bacheler begins ornamenting the structure of the piece with widely diverse and at times quite disparate variations on the theme. O’Dette’s performance is stunning, and while the timing here is within only seconds of his earlier effort, his articulation is noticeably more stylish and spontaneous.

Other highlights include Bacheler’s single Fantasia, with its varied palette of lower string sonorities contrasted with often dazzling virtuoso passages in the higher registers. Equally enjoyable is one of Bacheler’s most popular pieces, A Gallyard (subtitled “To Plead my faith”), with its playful melody and humorous ornaments. Bacheler’s highly imaginative arrangement and variations on the famous French song “La Jeune Fillette” impress as well.

Harmonia Mundi’s sonics are audiophile quality, with remarkably natural presence, clarity, and detail. Presentation is also exemplary, and O’Dette’s notes are informative and often very entertaining. All concerned should be commended for offering what certainly is one of the most consistently rewarding, enjoyable lute recitals in years. Highest recommendation.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: this one

DANIEL BACHELER - 26 works for lute

  • Paul O'Dette (8- and 10-course lutes)

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