It’s as difficult to know where to start describing the brilliance of this album as it is to avoid superlatives. Cellist Yo-Yo Ma, mandolin player Chris Thile and bassist Edgar Meyer are masters of their respective instruments. All are fluent in different musical styles and genres. All have collaborated with each other, either as duos or as part of a larger ensemble, on many occasions. All have performed and recorded JS Bach’s works for solo cello or violin to critical acclaim, so one can immediately assume a certain facility and intimacy when playing Bach together.
Here, they present a programme comprising arrangements of mostly keyboard works, the only exception being the Viola da Gamba Sonata No 3 in G Minor. There is the Trio Sonata No 6 in G, the Passepied from the Partita No 5 in G, an excerpt from The Art of Fugue and a selection of preludes and fugues and chorale preludes.
There are flashes of extreme virtuosity, such as the breakneck section in the E Minor Fugue BWV548, originally for organ. There are almost heartbreakingly beautiful renderings of some of Bach’s most famous chorale preludes, such as Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott, BWV721 and Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV645. But what really comes to the fore is the relishing of these unusual instrumental timbres and textures, the sensitive, stylish phrasing, and just how relaxed these guys are in each other’s company – and in Bach’s.