Bach Partita No.3 in E major (BVW 1006) – Prelude

Having listened to and studied Johann Sebastian Bach for many years, it is rarely that a new recording causes me to sit up and listen. Glenn Gould’s Goldberg Variations, Pablo Casals’ Cello Suites – these were truly ground-breaking recordings that masterfully re-designed Bach and changed listeners’ appreciation of the composer for the twentieth century. In the same way that John Williams’ and Julian Breams’ ‘English’ guitar recordings of Bach brought the master composer to another, newer, audience, so did the sound of Yo Yo Ma playing Bach from an iPad held by Steve Jobs to introduce the new device to the twenty-first century Press. I’d heard them all.

However, recently I was pointed in the direction of a YouTube video performed, produced and designed by a guitarist I’d not heard of before; David Veslocki. Not only was I listening to a perfect rendition of the Prelude to the Third Violin Partita in E major, but I was watching a hugely talented young man clearly able to broadcast his love and soul for the piece to his listeners in a way I’d not seen before. This performance is an audio-visual experience for new listeners; Bach played for today. Expertly produced and edited by David and his cameraman (who David delightfully describes as another virtuoso), Rick Dimichelle, we experience a subtle mix of camera viewpoints of his playing. The video seamlessly fades in and out of the music’s phrasing; proving just how video can enhance recorded performances.

David Veslocki

However, this piece isn’t just about the smartly attired guitarist in his whiteout studio. This is a video about Bach; it is the stripping back of the piece originally written for the Violin and then transcribed (BWV 1006a) for an instrument that didn’t survive – the lute-harpsichord. The tone is thin and the sound brittle, like that of the Lute; we almost catch our breath at the fragility of the sound. The deeper sonority of earlier recordings from a previous century is dispatched for a new sound, and we’re taken on a delicately balanced journey that holds on to us until the very last note. It is a masterful performance given by a man that has grasped how Bach himself thought. The piece is not only one of Bach’s object lessons in composition for a single voice, whereby the melodic line states the melody as well as being the outline for the harmony, but it is an outward expression of his inner-most thoughts and feelings. David Veslocki perfectly captures the very soul of Bach.

The new album will be released on the 10th of April 2018 and David will be donating the proceeds from the sales to the Black Tiger-White Jaguar Foundation. This not-for-profit organisation is dedicated to saving big cats from circuses and lives as pets – over 300 of them so far. I, for one, will be purchasing my copy of the album as soon as it is available.

Simon Bever