My Personal Favorites: The Jacques Loussier Trio Play Bach [TrackList follows] – Telarc/Concord TEL-35319-02 (2 CDs) [5/27/14] *****:
Jacques Loussier Trio – Beyond Bach, Other Composers I Adore [TrackList follows] – Telarc/Concord TEL-35342-2 [5/27/14] ****:
(Jacques Loussier – piano; Vincent Charbonnier – bass; Andre Arpino – drums; Pierre Michelot – bass & Christian Garros – drums on older tracks + chamber orch. on some tracks)
Starting in 1959 Jacques Loussier and his trio began to blur the lines between classical and jazz in way no one had really done before. They also performed and recorded with various other classical and jazz artists, making audiences re-evaluate the boundaries between the two genres. Loussier will observe his 80th birthday in October, and for this compendium of four discs he selected his favorite tracks, with a slant towards the trio which he formed in 1985.
The “Prelude” from the Well-Tempered Clavier was the very first thing he had performed in a jazz context. The tracks are an interesting mix of much-requested Bach favorites and Loussier’s own preference for slightly less well-known music in which the other members of the trio bring in their own personalities. Comparing early tracks such as the WTC one with more recent tracks shows that their are more conversations between the bass and drums and the piano than there were in the first numbers. The integration of new technology with the three conventional instruments is also a more recent focus. He selected the most contrasting four tracks from his complete Goldberg Variations, which he did for the first time in 2000. The complete Brandenburg Concerto No. 5 is heard, as well as the complete Italian Concerto in the trio’s special style.
In 1980 Loussier retired to his home in Provence, but he was coaxed back to re-form The Play Bach Trio during the tercentenary of Bach’s birth in 1985. In the later ‘90s he began to move into other composers’ music, which is the theme of the second two-CD album. In 1996 he did a complete version of Vivaldi’s Four Seasons for Telarc (the “Summer” Concerto is in this set), and in 1999 he explored his connections with the French impressionists in a fascinating way, creating his shortened and exciting version of Ravel’s famous Bolero. It’s quite amazing what they do with the potboiler. In 1993 he tackled the lovely Allegretto theme from Beethoven’s Symphony No. 7, also heard here. He takes the first Schumann piece at a draggy tempo and that is the only one on these discs I wouldn’t care to hear again. Other composers’ works given the Loussier treatment in this compendium are Handel, Domenico Scarlatti, Satie and Chopin. Both compendium double discs will be offered at a special price since they are reissues. They are altogether a fine showcase for Loussier’s legendary career
The sonics are typically excellent. I had a 1977 Philips 45rpm vinyl of four of the Bach selections but none were duplicated in this collection, and while it had a slight bit more clarity it wasn’t a major difference. There have been many different Loussier Trio CDs over the years, as well as completely different recorded efforts, such as his unusual soundtrack for the film Dark of the Sun. The trio’s album with The Swingle Singers is also great fun.
TrackList – Bach Album:
Disc 1: Air on G String; Fugue No. 5 in D; Pastorale in c; Prelude No. 1 in C (Well-Tempered Clavier); Toccata and Fugue in d; Italian Concerto; Partita in E Major; Chorale No. 1 “Sleepers Awake;” Toccata and Fugue in C Major
Disc 2: Siciliana in g; Concerto in C Minor BWV 1060: Allegro; Little Fugue in g; Concerto in f minor BVW 1056; Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring; Brandenburg Concerto No. 5; Goldberg Variations excerpts: Aria; Variations 2, 5 & 25
TrackList – Beyond Bach album:
Disc 1: VIVALDI: Concerto No. 2 “Summer” from The Four Seasons; SATIE: Gymnopedie No. 1 (2 parts); HANDEL: Passacaglia; D. SCARLATTI: Sonata No. 33; RAVEL: Bolero; DEBUSSY: Clair de lune; Arabesque
Disc 2: BEETHOVEN: Allegretto from Sym. No. 7; MOZART: Piano Concerto No. 23 in A; SCHUMANN: Of Foreign Lands and Peoples; Dreaming; CHOPIN: Nocturnes Nos. 5, 11, 14 & 20