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Christopher Parkening  : A Bach Celebration : CD

BACH: We Thank Thee, Lord, We Thank Thee (from Cantata 29); Arioso (from Cantata 156) ; Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring ( from Cantata 147); How Joyful is My Heart ( from Cantata 199); Alone Should Have My Heart ( from Cantata 169) ;Sleepers Awake (from Cantata `140); Withstand Firmly All Sin ( from Cantata 54):  BACH /WALTON : Sheep May Safely Graze ( from Cantata 208) ; What God Has Done Is Rightly Done ( from Cantata 99):

Christopher Parkening and the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra

Angel Records: CDC-7 47195-2

Here is an album of some of Bach’s most beloved pieces from his many Cantatas arranged for guitar and chamber orchestra .The first piece is, for me a surprise because the orchestra is fronted by Christopher Parkening playing the Prelude from the 3rd Violin Partita which, if it came from the same source as the melody from Cantata 29, is very much a shock!

The Arioso is another well-known melody with some lovely pizzicato strings accompanying our guitarist in a moving performance. Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring is perhaps one of Bach’s loveliest melodies in such a clever arrangement, and certainly one of my favourite pieces on this album.

How Joyful is My Heart is slow melodic and beautifully performed, until a minute in when the piece changes direction completely and becomes dance – like and happy. This is another lovely piece that sounds great here.

Sheep May Safely Graze is one of Bach’s most well – known works, even away from the Cantata, and after the opening introduction the famous melody we all know and love enters, and again has to be one of my very favourite performances here, and as with the rest of the CD, beautifully recorded too.

God Alone Should Have My Heart is a merry piece with a great but difficult guitar part ably played by Christopher Parkening, which is then followed by another favourite Bach piece, Sleepers Awake which again begins with an introduction you may not at first recognize, until the lovely main melody appears on the guitar , backed superbly by the Los Angeles C.O.

Withstand Firmly All Sin has a strong firm pulse behind its melody and is another piece of beautiful writing I didn’t previously know, which only goes to firm up my recognition of Bach as a miraculous composer, of so many hundreds of outstanding works.

The final piece from Cantata 99, is What God Hath Done is Rightly Done with some musical help from Sir William Walton (as was Sheep May Safely Graze), and ends the CD on a joyously happy note.

This CD may surprise some of you who perhaps have dipped your toes in the waters of Bach but don’t know too much of his music, for this CD is great, wonderful music, effortless playing from Christopher Parkening  and the orchestra and a clear vibrant recording. Fabulous !

Chris Dumigan

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