Bach guitar 8574541

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Lute Partita BWV 1006a
Violin Sonata BWV 1001
Prelude, Fugue, Allegro BWV 998
Chaconne from BWV 1004
Georgi Dimitrov-Jojo (guitar)
rec. 2023, St Paul’s Anglican Church, Newmarket, Canada
Naxos 8.574541 [60]

Although the lexicologist may assign a more general meaning to the phrase ’he gave his heart and soul,’ having auditioned this recording, and read the accompanying notes, a literal interpretation is appropriate.

Georgi Dimitrov-Jojo was born in 2000, in Bulgaria. Aged ten, he played for Paco de Lucia who complimented him on his great talent, As a young student, Georgi attended the National Music School in Sofia. He completed his BA with honours at the University of Music and Performing Arts Graz with Paulo Pegoraro and Lukasz Kuropaczewski, and is currently pursuing an MA at the Royal Academy of Music in London He is winner of more than 20 international guitar competitions.

This recording presented the opportunity for Dimitrov-Jojo to fulfil a common dream which he held with his teacher and mentor, Paulo Pegoraro: ‘to deliver something beyond the physical, a musical experience that can engulf one’s mind and soul, and which transcends thoughts about matter, or indeed instrument’. To achieve this objective, Dimitrov-Jojo felt he needed to change his approach to the guitar. His belief that Baroque instruments possess an energy and a humility, needed to be replicated in his guitar; also to reduce its overtones and make it sound more like a chamber instrument.

While modern practitioners on Baroque instruments use 415Hz as their reference pitch, the modern guitar is designed to give optimal performance at standard concert pitch (440Hz), and generally performs less satisfactorily at 415Hz. For this recording a 426Hz tuning was used. Those who have listened to the flamenco guitarist Carlos Montoya may find his lower tuning of the instrument rather ‘flat’ and less dynamic. Despite this, there is no strong preoccupation with lowered tuning on this particular recording; those with perfect pitch maybe excepted? In conjunction with this tuning, Dimitrov-Jojo carefully chose those keys which could make his instrument sound less ‘guitar-like.’

BWV 1006a and BWV 998 are played on this occasion with a capo on the first fret, and the original key of BWV 1001 was chosen, as per the arrangement by Manuel Barrueco, in preference to the more convenient key of A minor.

It is unfortunate that at a time when interest in the guitar, and its acceptance as a concert instrument, accelerate towards its zenith, the guitar had not yet established its identity. While 4 strings has long been established as the norm for the violin, does the guitar need six, or ten, or maybe 7? What should the scale length be, and the standard construction design?

Major changes have occurred in the past eight decades to overcome the perceived deficiencies in the Torres design of the middle 19th century. It may be that a guitarist needs a different guitar for recording than the one played in concert; or that Baroque music needs an instrument made by a different luthier, and contemporary by yet another..

The deviations in this recording from standard concert pitch, A=440, and amendments to the keys in which the music is usually transcribed, suggest a relentless pursuit of matters settled long ago, in the main, by other instrument players. Some will see this as progressive, others as ambivalence.

Anyone familiar with the Chaconne from BWV 1004 and the arrangements by Segovia and Behrend,

will notice significant changes by Paolo Pegoraro in the arrangement played here; there are additional voice lines, and embellishments influenced by historical instruments such as the Baroque lute and violin.

On the matter of the Chaconne, it is programmed in isolation from the other movements of the Partita, key unchanged, and the rendition is superior. It is played relatively quickly (13:48) but does not give any impression of being rushed, or the single note passages, requiring rapid execution, sounding garbled or showy, and at the expense of the music. The contextual control of tempi is excellent.

The guitar played on this occasion was made by Carsten Kobs, Hamburg. His instruments have a double top and an elevated fingerboard. Whatever overall virtues this particular instrument may possess, the quality of sounding well when tuned below standard concert pitch is highly relevant in the context of this recording; most instruments will not. Agustín Barrios tuned his instrument a tone lower, probably to accommodate the added tension of the metal strings he used. Some concert artists actually tune their instruments above concert pitch when playing solo; this can give the instrument a brighter and more focussed sound.

One may question the objective of making the guitar sound less like itself; to reduce natural overtones and make it sound more intimate, and more like a chamber instrument. This recording represents excellent technical facility, refined musicianship and deep understanding of the music. It may be that the guitarist should have considered a different instrument to fulfil his admirable objectives?


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