Thomas Gould: Bach to Parker
Bach is the arbiter of many good and different things, and it’s no coincidence that the only composers paired with any reliability in recordings with Bach – especially the solo violin works – are contemporary. Not only because Bach inevitably makes so many of his own contemporaries sound inferior when standing next to them but because he provides such a useful and often grounding touchstone for new music.
That theory only bears out, though, if the Bach is played as straightforward, accomplished and without overpowering ego. It’s a relief, then, that Thomas Gould’s opening performance of the Chaconne on his disc ‘Bach to Parker’ is just that – an admirable performance technically (with just enough of a stamp of his own personality to make it distinctive), the tempo relationships make sense, and his musical argument is intelligent but uncomplicated. It is, then, the proper arbiter of the good and different things that follow, in the form of new works that in some way reflect Bach’s visionary sensibilities, from the evolution from simplicity to virtuosity of Nico Muhly’s compelling A Long Line (literally) to less conceptual references to the Chaconne such as the ghostly phrasing of Lines written a few miles below by Mark Bowden.
Champs Hill has proved itself reliable in backing winners among young musicians with particular potential for successful careers: all the new music on this disc showcases Gould’s versatility at the same time as allowing his unfussy, unegotistical playing of the new music to burgeon. Long may that virtuous circle continue in his radiant playing.