Hopkinson Smith has been called the most moving of present day lutenists...he approaches the lute's universe with a musicality which goes far beyond the seemingly limited voice of his instrument. We invite you to explore on this website the magic of his lute and its music.

J.S. BACH: Suite No. 4 in B-flat Major; Suite No. 6 in D Major; Suite in g minor (Suite No. 5 in c minor) – Hopkinson Smith, Baroque lute – Naïve

Lutenist Hopkinson Smith successfully completes his remarkable survey of the cello suites in his arrangements for lute of Bach’s fourth and sixth cello suites, plus Bach’s own arrangement of the fifth suite on this vivid sounding compact disc. Smith transcribed the Cello Suites four and six for a 13-course Baroque lute. Smith uses Bach’s transcription of the Fifth Suite, but with a transposition down for the Baroque lute.

Bach’s unaccompanied cello suites were composed around 1720. He was serving as Kapellmeister of Prince Leopold of Anhalt-Cöthen’s court orchestra. For once Bach did not have any responsibility to compose church music, so he was able to turn his talents loose on other types of compositions, among them the unaccompanied Cello Suites. Composed about the same time were the unaccompanied violin Sonatas and Partitas. The solo Cello Suites are simpler and less polyphonic than the solo violin Sonatas and Partitas. When asked to write something for lute, Bach chose his fifth Cello Suite to transcribe.

The cello suites have the following movements: Prélude, Allemande, Courante, Sarabande, Menuets I and II (in Suites 1 and 2), Bourées I and II (in Suites 3 and 4), Gavottes I and II (in Suite 6 and the Lute Suite in g minor) and a final Gigue.

Though the movements in each suite retain the names of dances, the suites were not designed for dancing. These suites are profound and elaborate, both technically and musically. They have improvisatory and virtuosic elements. The compositions lose none of their mystery. They are in a simpler form though they follow the plan of the French classical suite. The use of a single melodic line points to the essentials of musical structure, rather than a large Baroque edifice.

The g minor Suite (fifth suite) was recorded in 1980. Suites Four and Six were recorded in 1992. Comparing the sound reveals no difference in quality nor any difference in comparison with the recording of the first three suites (Naive E 8937). Naive has provided an informative insert in French and English.

Both discs are highly recommended for sound, performance and music.

by Zan Furtwangler (Audiophile Audition)