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Harmonia Early Music

Fretwork’s Reinterpretation Of The Goldbergs

This week, Bach's influence continues to spread to the string instruments.

Members of Fretwork

Photo: Chris Dawes

Members of Fretwork. From left to right: Susanna Pell, Richard Boothby, Reiko Ichise, Richard Tunnicliffe, and Asako Morikawa. Seated: former member Richard Campbell who passed away in March 2011.

A few weeks ago, we featured a reinterpretation of Bach’s Goldberg Variations in which pianist Lara Downes asked that contemporary composers create their own pieces inspired by the Variations’ aria. Now Fretwork has also been inspired to create their own arrangement of the Goldberg Variations in their 2011 CD. Fretwork member Richard Boothby commented on some of the difficulties in arranging a keyboard work for an ensemble of string instruments, saying that some instruments like the tenor viol seemed to get left out because of Bach’s tendency toward the extreme ends of the keyboard. But in some instances he dropped the melody an octave to be in the range of the tenor viol.

Johann Sebastian Bach: Aria
Fretwork — Goldberg Variations (arranged for viols) (Harmonia Mundi, 2011)
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Johann Sebastian Bach: Variation 3
Fretwork — Goldberg Variations (arranged for viols) (Harmonia Mundi, 2011)
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Anna Pranger

Anna Pranger moved to Bloomington in 2009 to pursue a degree in music librarianship. Before this, she worked on a degree in music history at the College-Conservatory of Music in Cincinnati, Ohio. She serves as both an assistant producer for Harmonia and the Music Library Assistant for WFIU.

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  • Bernard Gordillo

    A few things: (1) Richard Campbell is not a former member just because he’s deceased. (2) Please learn how pronounce the word “viol.” You have quite a few gambists living in Bloomington, and numerous fans of the instrument (or any), as well, who you can easily consult with on issues of pronunciation. (3)  You imply in the title that the variations are by Goldberg. They are commonly and informally referred to as “The Goldbergs.” (4) Bach composed them specifically for a double-manual harpsichord, not for the organ or the early piano, even though they may be perfectly playable on them or their modern equivalents. “Keyboard” is too general a term in this case.

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