SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

BACH: The French Suites 1 – 3; Praeludium XXIV; Passacaglia in c – Mika Väyrynen, accordion – Alba

If you share the European predilection for classical transcriptions on the accordion, this is for you.

Published on July 5, 2013

J.S. BACH: The French Suites 1 – 3; Praeludium XXIV in b BWV 869; Passacaglia in c BMV 582 – Mika Väyrynen, accordion – Alba multichannel SACD ABCD 346, 64:52 [2/13/13] (Distr. by Albany) ***½:

Europeans and the Japanese seem to be big on classical transcriptions played on the accordion, as well as new music composed for that instrument. Among the classics, Bach and Scarlatti arrangements are among the favorites. We have here a virtuoso Finnish accordionist, who teach at the Sibelius Academy there and is also involved in contemporary music, as well having made over 20 recordings.

Väyrynen says he sees no reason why the modern accordion should not be used to play music written well before its development. While I’ve enjoyed the modern accordion performances of the sonatas of Domenico Scarlatti, there seems to be something about these Bach selections which just sounds better to me on the harpsichord than on the accordion, no matter the expertise of the performer. (I don’t like them on the piano either, except for Glenn Gould.) Väyrynen does state in his notes that these Bach works do not sound like the originals, and he’s certainly right there. The most noticeable difference between hearing the works on the two instruments is the accordion’s ability to hold the notes and not have them die out quickly as on the harpsichord.

The two short Bach pieces book-end the performances of the longer works on the disc. Alba’s five-channel surround sonics are excellent and demonstrate the added realism that this format can provide to just a solo instrument.

—John Sunier

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