Two Guitars Play English Suites

Review by: David Vernier


Artistic Quality: 9

Sound Quality: 10

Guitarists have been transcribing Bach’s music for their instrument practically since there were guitarists and music by Bach, and although there are other versions of at least some of the keyboard works known as “English Suites” transcribed for guitar duo, this first of two volumes appears to be the first of all six suites to be offered on disc. If you know these pieces in their keyboard versions, or you are a fan of guitar music and are curious as to how the Montenegrin Guitar Duo’s renditions serve in this format–you’ll find the performances technically assured, interpretively nuanced yet free of mannerism, and very carefully, expertly balanced across registers and between voices. In other words, these are very fine realizations that lovers of Bach and the guitar will appreciate.

For two people to successfully play music intended for one head and one pair of hands isn’t just a matter of “you take the bottom and I’ll take the top”; each guitarist’s hand must work with the other (someone else’s!) in true concert to ensure that lines beginning in one register flow smoothly to the next, that phrases and dynamics maintain a natural shape and momentum no matter who’s playing them, and that thematic statements and repetitions are complementary. It’s important that clarity of line and contrapuntal interplay, along with uniform articulation and cooperative stylistic approach preserve the integrity of the piece while not drawing undue attention to the number of performers. It’s a different sort of playing than, say, in a duet with intentionally separate, distinctly diverse, individually expressive parts.

Guitarists Goran Krivokapić and Danijel Cerović achieve all of this with impressive rhythmic coordination, not only in the fast movements (the Prélude of the A minor Suite No. 2, for example, a favorite of many guitar duos), but especially in the slow movements, where the many instances of ornamentation require extra-sensitive attention and anticipation from each partner (as in the Sarabande of the A major Suite No. 1). These slow movements also give the players a chance to trade expressive riffs when a melodic line alternates registers (and hands). The sound, from a church in Newmarket, Ontario, captured by the legendary recording team of Norbert Kraft & Bonnie Silver, is clear and natural, resonant enough, neither too close nor too spacious, and detailed without the extraneous performance noise often evident on guitar recordings. Strongly recommended.

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Recording Details:

Reference Recording: This one

  • BACH, J.S.:
    English Suites Nos. 1-3 (Arr. for two guitars by Montenegrin Guitar Duo)

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