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Chris Thile Explores Bach

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Tuesday August 06, 2013

From Paste Magazine

Chris Thile: Bach- Sonatas and Partitas Volume 1
By: Douglas Heselgrave

Chris Thile, the celebrated mandolin player from The Punch Brothers and Nickel Creek isn’t the first popular musician to cross over into classical music, but he might be the only one who has done it successfully. Genre-jumping of any kind is an extremely risky venture, and you don’t have to look very far to find examples of artists who have failed miserably when they’ve attempted to deviate from their established styles and images. Thankfully, these performances of Bach’s solo violin pieces arranged for the mandolin are so subtle, uplifting and accomplished that they should have the opposite effect and add to Thile’s already considerable reputation as one of the finest young string players on the circuit today.

For those who have followed Thile’s career, this recording of Bach partitas shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. Over the years, Thile has collaborated with other classical musicians, most notably the young violin prodigy Hilary Hahn whose own 2003 recording of Bach’s sonatas and partitas set a very high bar for the mandolin player to reach for. This is essentially what distinguishes Thile’s foray into classical music from those of other established musicians like Sting and Paul McCartney. Sting’s album, Songs from the Labyrinth, which featured interpretations of ancient lute music from John Dowland, had some beautiful moments, but the technical demands of Dowland’s music—as lovely as it is—are not comparable to those one needs to approach Bach. Similarly, McCartney’s original classical works are essentially orchestrated versions of the type of melodies he’s written for the last 50 years and could hardly be considered challenging for the listener.

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