November 16, 2023

Alon Sariel Breathes New Life Into Well-Known Works by Bach With ‘Plucked Bach II’

Pentatone releases Plucked Bach II, together with Alon Sariel, in January 2024.

J.S. Bach’s Music On The Mandolin

Mandolinist Alon Sariel continues his series of Bach transcriptions with Plucked Bach II. On his first Plucked Bach album, Sariel played the Cello Suites on a wide range of plucked instruments. Yet in this new recording, he performs works for the lute, organ and violin – all performed on ‘only’ two types of mandolins. By offering a distinctive and groundbreaking interpretation of his own transcriptions and arrangements, Sariel manages to breathe new life into some very well-known works by Johann Sebastian Bach.

The iconoclast Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (BWV 565) for the organ receives a contemplative and intimate character on the mandolin. Excerpts of the Lute Suite (BWV 998) and the Violin Partita No. 3 in E Major (BWV 1006) are drawn in a whole new palette of colors. For Bach’s Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Minor (BWV 1003), Alon Sariel shows the incredible suitability of the mandolin for Bach’s music. And as an encore, you will hear his rendition of Ysaÿe’s dazzling Obsession.

Alon Sariel is one of today’s most versatile performers, known as a multi-instrumentalist in the realm of plucked strings with a growing reputation as a fascinating Bach interpreter.

“I am happy and excited to present the second volume of my project Plucked Bach. While the first volume focused on the cello suites, here I have expanded the scope to include works for the lute, organ, and violin. However, I am this time exclusively concentrating on my primary instrument, the mandolin.

The centerpiece of this album is the Sonata No. 2 for Solo Violin (BWV 1003). In my mandolin arrangement, I also drew inspiration from Bach’s own keyboard version (BWV 964). It is intriguing to note that Bach maintained the same structural sequence in both versions: The Sonata begins with a 4-voice Grave, followed by a 3-part Fugue, a 2-voice Andante, and concludes with a final Allegro movement featuring a single voice. Perhaps it was this clarity and structured nature that inspired me to choose the four-string mandolin for this work, also known as Mandolino Toscano. Unlike most mandolins and lutes that typically require string pairs or courses, this mandolin type has single strings tuned in 5ths, similar to the violin. Its clear, sweet and intimate sound creates a delicate contrast to the modern mandolin used in the other pieces.

It then seemed absolutely fitting to include the original Prelude (BWV 1006) from Bach’s Partita No. 3 on the album, as it is a captivating piece in its own right! Over the centuries, it has been arranged by notable composers such as Schumann, Saint-Saëns, Rachmaninoff, Kreisler, and others. Additionally, Bach himself wrote two more versions: one for the lute (BWV 1006a) and another for the organ, serving as the opening Sinfonia of the Cantata “Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir” (BWV 29). It was the latter version, in accompaniment of a small orchestra with oboes, trumpets and timpani, which made me understand the festive character Bach himself envisioned in this music. The mandolin, I believe, beautifully captures that essence.”

Alon Sariel

Digital Release Date: 26 JANUARY 2024

Physical Release: JANUARY 2024

Released as 1 standard CD and in digital formats for streaming and high-resolution downloads