"New" Bach for the guitar

Guitarists have treated J. S. Bach's music as their own since Segovia started to perform movements from the so-called "lute suites" in the 1920s. The fact that these have long been proven to be keyboard works has not changed their popularity. The fact is that they work magnificently, as do most of the solo string suites. There seems to be a purity of line in Bach's work which transcends instruments.

Accordingly, I have been looking elsewhere throughout Bach's massive output for music which can work on the guitar. The first fruits of my labours are now available - the Prelude from BWV 543 and three of the Neumeister Chorales. The prelude was originally composed for the organ, and is followed in the original by a fugue. Stylistically, the work recalls Bach's violin music in its use of widely flung arpeggio figuration and rapid scale work, and concludes with an orchestral tutti in multiple parts. Whilst difficult, it sits well under the fingers and makes a fine showpiece which exploits the guitar's registral and tonal resources to the max.

I am also preparing to publish an arrangement of the fugue from this work - as is, it is theoretically possible to play almost all of the notes, but the difficulties in doing so at a reasonable tempo are considerable. I am working on scaling down the polyphony in the interests of facilitating greater practical fluency. My model here is Bach's own fugal writing for solo strings - the fugue from the first violin sonata also exists as an organ piece, which features a much more complex polyphonic structure. On the violin Bach is able to suggest harmonic motion from a single line redolent with implied counterpoint, and this is the approach I am taking towards realizing the fugue from BWV 543.

The other works I am releasing are some of my duet arrangements of the Neumeister Chorales. Also originally for organ, the burden is shared quite comfortably between the two guitars. This is a great way for guitarists to get their hands dirty with some of Bach's most ingeniously woven polyphonic structures.