Today marks the release of mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile new album, Bach: Sonatas and Partitas, Vol. 1, which comprises three works written for solo violin and was produced by Edgar Meyer. Thile was featured on PBS NewHour, which calls him "a mandolin virtuoso who defies musical boundaries"; watch the piece here. The Herald Scotland calls Thile "astonishing" and "skilled beyond any obvious deployment of the word virtuosic." Citing "Glenn Gould's sensational second recording of the Goldberg Variations" the Herald says "this album is worthy of a place on any shelf alongside that classic." Epoch Times gives the album four-and-a-half stars, explaining: "The playing goes from heavenly and sublime to technical and outstanding and never loses one’s concentration."
Today marks the Nonesuch Records release of a new album of three Bach works recorded by mandolin virtuoso Chris Thile. Bach: Sonatas and Partitas, Vol. 1 comprises three works written for solo violin: Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001; Partita No. 1 in B minor, BWV 1002; and Sonata No. 2 in A minor, BWV 1003. The album was produced by Thile’s friend, mentor, and frequent collaborator, the double bassist and composer Edgar Meyer.
To pick up a copy of Bach: Sonatas and Partitas, Vol. 1, head to iTunes and, for CD, MP3, and FLAC, the Nonesuch Store, where CD orders include a download of the complete album at checkout. Thile will perform works by Bach in solo recitals this fall; for details and ticket links, visit nonesuch.com/on-tour.
In advance of today's album release, Chris Thile was featured on the PBS NewsHour last night. Thile, whom host Ray Suarez describes as "a mandolin virtuoso who defies musical boundaries," talks with the show's Jeffrey Brown about that very thing, moving beyond the artificial limitations of genre, not least to perform these Bach violin pieces on the mandolin. You can watch the complete NewsHour piece here:
Watch Mandolin Master Chris Thile Plays Bluegrass and Bach on PBS. See more from PBS NewsHour.
In the UK, where the album was released yesterday, the Herald Scotland calls Thile "astonishing" and "skilled beyond any obvious deployment of the word virtuosic." The Herald arts editor Keith Bruce continues in his review: "He was always been a quite astonishing player and the 'Presto' tempo movements here are jaw-dropping in their precision, articulation, and sound-barrier-trashing sheer speed. Beautifully recorded by bassist and regular collaborator Edgar Meyer, the disc is also just as impressive on the slow Andante in the Sonata No. 2. Thile says he was inspired to learn Bach after hearing Glenn Gould's sensational second recording of the Goldberg Variations, and this album is worthy of a place on any shelf alongside that classic." Read the complete review at heraldscotland.com.
The Financial Times gives the album four stars, saying Thile "shows his full dexterity" on the record. Epoch Times gives the album four-and-a-half stars, explaining: "The playing goes from heavenly and sublime to technical and outstanding and never loses one’s concentration. Somehow it is effortless to listen to, a testament not only to the composer but also to the arranger and player."
Back in the States, Paste magazine gives the album an 8.9. Thile "isn’t the first popular musician to cross over into classical music, but he might be the only one who has done it successfully," exclaims Paste's Douglas Heselgrave. "He’s proven that he’s up to the task of rendering this incredibly complex music as well as showing—especially in the faster sections—that the distance between baroque and bluegrass is shorter than we may previously have thought."
Heselgrave later concludes: "Bach: Sonatas and Partitas Volume 1 is beautifully played and uplifting to listen to from beginning to end. Every one of the pieces on this CD sounds perfectly at home interpreted for the mandolin. People who don’t think they like classical music might be surprised by how great it sounds when they hear it played by Chris Thile."
Read the complete review at pastemagazine.com.
As noted in the Herald review, Thile explains his connection to the composer: “Bach was my first meaningful experience with—for lack of a better word—classical music. It was the second recording of Glenn Gould playing the Goldberg Variations. Gould plays with the kind of rhythmic integrity that I had previously only associated with non-classical music: music with a groove, with a pocket, that made you move. Gould was playing that music like my heroes play fiddle tunes. It humanized the whole thing for me and the heavens opened up and Bach came down. I started devouring all the Bach I could get my hands on.”
He continues, “This record to me is not about this iconic violin music played on the mandolin—like, ‘Oh boy, what fun, he’s playing a weird instrument!’ It's about Bach being one of the greatest musicians of all time, the solo violin music being some of his best work, and the mandolin having the potential to cast it in a new and hopefully interesting light."
Chris Thile, whom London’s Independent calls “the most remarkable mandolinist in the world,” is the founding member and lead vocalist of Punch Brothers. With broad influences including progressive bluegrass, classical, rock, and jazz, Thile transcends the borders of conventionally circumscribed genres, creating a distinctly American canon and a new musical aesthetic. Thile will be touring this month with Yo-Yo Ma, Stuart Duncan, and Edgar Meyer, with whom he released last year’s The Goat Rodeo Sessions, which won two Grammys in 2013.
As a soloist, Thile has released five previous albums. In 2011, Nonesuch Records released the Grammy–nominated Sleep with One Eye Open, an album of duets with guitarist Michael Daves. Thile has also collaborated with a pantheon of musical innovators from multiple genres including Béla Fleck, Brad Mehldau, and Hilary Hahn. For more than 15 years, Thile played in the wildly popular band Nickel Creek, with which he released three albums, sold two million records, and was awarded a Grammy.
The New Yorker’s Alec Wilkinson said of Punch Brothers: “each musician has a deep command of his instrument … their technique and specific sensibilities have given Punch Brothers a sound that is strikingly coherent and singular, even if they haven’t yet settled on a genre … Each of the musicians … plays with grace, thoughtfulness, and force to a degree that is not duplicated by any band I am aware of.” Their latest album, the critically acclaimed Who’s Feeling Young Now?, was released in 2012 on Nonesuch Records.