BACH: Bach to Moog, a Realization for Electronics and Orchestra – Jennifer Pike, violin/ Craig Leon, Moog synth/ Sinfonietta Cracovia/ Craig Leon – Sony Classical 88875052612, 53:14 (5/4/15) *****:
In January 2015, Moog Music, the 60-year-old analogue synthesizer company, announced that for the first time in more than 30 years, it would once again build the large format modular synthesizer first introduced by its founder and inventor, Dr. Robert Moog in 1964.
Since 2015 also marks the 10th anniversary of Dr. Moog’s passing, and the 50th anniversary of the first Moog modular synthesizer, Sony Classical took its Bach Moog franchise, established in 1968 album with Wendy Carlos’ Switched on Bach LP, which switched on musicians and their public to the new world of synthesized music making, and made the first recording using the newly re-issued Moog System 55 Modular Synthesizer. The 55’s modular system integrates the synthesizer into the orchestra as a solo instrument and also as a processor of other instruments, and the results are surprisingly lush, frivolous and highly entertaining if you’re in the mood for such ambitious, occasionally fluffy stuff. Not the Moog of old.
The range of the new Moog’s participation ranges from creating a splendid celebratory air for the opening Prelude of the E major Partita BWV 1006 to latticework light in the continuo for the Siciliano of the Violin Sonata BWV 1017, in which violinist’s Jennifer Pike’s exquisite phrasing is embossed by the texture, color and clarity of the new instrument. The big Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565, provides eight minutes of unbridled audiophile fantasy during which the toccata is treated as a duet between solo violin and Moog, with the string orchestra joining them for the fugue.
The ingenuity continues unabated on each track. Moog uses treated and acoustic violin tracks to create surrealistic Bach, as in the Arioso from the Cantata BWV 156, and the inevitable Air from the Orchestral Suite No. 3, for treated and acoustic solo violin, a small string section used both acoustically and with generated Moog lines, as well as Moog continuo; on the next track, Leon then uses two Moogs to delightfully replace the playful recorders in the Fourth Brandenburg Concerto, before closing with the simplicity of the Goldberg Variations Aria and the innocence of the 14 Canons on the Goldberg Ground, BWV 1087.
Throughout, Leon blends his love and mastery of classical, electronic and synthesizer music – his credits include work with the Ramones and Blondie, Pavarotti and Joshua Bell, and the Anthology of Interplanetary Folk Music – with brilliant work from Pike, youngest winner of the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition, and the Sinfonietta Cracovia, one of the hottest young European chamber orchestras now on the circuit.