Borromeo String Quartet | Bach Well-Tempered Clavier Book One for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)

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Bach Well-Tempered Clavier Book One for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)

by Borromeo String Quartet

Hear the expressive intricacy of Bach brought into the conversational music-space of the string quartet. Nicholas Kitchen has arranged all of Well-Tempered Clavier Book One and plays it here with his colleagues in the Borromeo String Quartet.
Genre: Classical: Bach
Release Date: 

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  Song Share Time Download
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1. Bach Wtc I BWV 846 I Prelude in C Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:59 album only
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2. Bach Wtc I BWV 846 II Fugue in C Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
2:02 album only
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3. Bach Wtc I BWV 847 I Prelude in C Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:51 album only
clip
4. Bach Wtc I BWV 847 II Fugue in C Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:51 album only
clip
5. Bach Wtc I BWV 848 I Prelude in C# Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:45 album only
clip
6. Bach Wtc I BWV 848 II Fugue in C# Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
2:53 album only
clip
7. Bach Wtc I BWV 849 I Prelude in C# Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
3:14 album only
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8. Bach Wtc I BWV 849 II Fugue in C# Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
3:24 album only
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9. Bach Wtc I BWV 850 I Prelude in D Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:50 album only
clip
10. Bach Wtc I BWV 850 II Fugue in D Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:48 album only
clip
11. Bach Wtc I BWV 851 I Prelude in D Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:53 album only
clip
12. Bach Wtc I BWV 851 II Fugue in D Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:54 album only
clip
13. Bach Wtc I BWV 852 I Prelude in Eb Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
3:06 album only
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14. Bach Wtc I BWV 852 II Fugue in Eb Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
2:00 album only
clip
15. Bach Wtc I BWV 853 I Prelude in Eb Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
2:50 album only
clip
16. Bach Wtc I BWV 853 II Fugue in D# Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
4:01 album only
clip
17. Bach Wtc I BWV 854 I Prelude in E Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:41 album only
clip
18. Bach Wtc I BWV 854 II Fugue in E Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:21 album only
clip
19. Bach Wtc I BWV 855 I Prelude in E Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
2:32 album only
clip
20. Bach Wtc I BWV 855 II Fugue in E Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:31 album only
clip
21. Bach Wtc I BWV 856 I Prelude in F Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:13 album only
clip
22. Bach Wtc I BWV 856 II Fugue in F Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:23 album only
clip
23. Bach Wtc I BWV 857 I Prelude in F Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
2:01 album only
clip
24. Bach Wtc I BWV 857 II Fugue in F Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
3:04 album only
clip
25. Bach Wtc I BWV 858 I Prelude in F# Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:50 album only
clip
26. Bach Wtc I BWV 858 II Fugue in F# Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:55 album only
clip
27. Bach Wtc I BWV 859 I Prelude in F# Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:19 album only
clip
28. Bach Wtc I BWV 859 II Fugue in F# Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
2:53 album only
clip
29. Bach Wtc I BWV 860 I Prelude in G Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:06 album only
clip
30. Bach Wtc I BWV 860 II Fugue in G Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
3:20 album only
clip
31. Bach Wtc I BWV 861 I Prelude in G Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:36 album only
clip
32. Bach Wtc I BWV 861 II Fugue in G Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:40 album only
clip
33. Bach Wtc I BWV 862 I Prelude in Ab Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:30 album only
clip
34. Bach Wtc I BWV 862 II Fugue in Ab Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:43 album only
clip
35. Bach Wtc I BWV 863 I Prelude in G# Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:47 album only
clip
36. Bach Wtc I BWV 863 II Fugue in G# Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:59 album only
clip
37. Bach Wtc I BWV 864 I Prelude in a Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:18 album only
clip
38. Bach Wtc I BWV 864 II Fugue in a Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
2:39 album only
clip
39. Bach Wtc I BWV 865 I Prelude in a Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:25 album only
clip
40. Bach Wtc I BWV 865 II Fugue in a Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
4:20 album only
clip
41. Bach Wtc I BWV 866 I Prelude in Bb Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:23 album only
clip
42. Bach Wtc I BWV 866 II Fugue in Bb Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:49 album only
clip
43. Bach Wtc I BWV 867 I Prelude in Bb Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
2:36 album only
clip
44. Bach Wtc I BWV 867 II Fugue in Bb Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
2:16 album only
clip
45. Bach Wtc I BWV 868 I Prelude in B Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:12 album only
clip
46. Bach Wtc I BWV 868 II Fugue in B Maj for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
1:44 album only
clip
47. Bach Wtc I BWV 869 I Prelude in B Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
5:21 album only
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48. Bach Wtc I BWV 869 II Fugue in B Min for String Quartet (Arr. Kitchen)
4:32 album only

ABOUT THIS ALBUM


Album Notes
About the transcription of The Well-Tempered Clavier Book One for String Quartet

For the last three hundred years The Well-Tempered Clavier has nourished classical music like the root system of a great tree. Almost every great classical composer since Bach has taken The Well-Tempered Clavier deep into their personal workshop. Chopin had it on the piano as he wrote his 24 Preludes. Bartók meticulously prepared his own pedagogically re-ordered edition of it. Schumann called it his “daily bread,” and he and Clara devoted whole weeks to its study. This list could go on and on, but however long it might be, it would still barely start to describe the influence these works have had on all of our greatest musical creators in every generation since Bach.

Bach created two books of 24 Preludes and Fugues-- Book One in 1722 and Book Two in 1742. The present CD includes the music of Book One. One could write notes here that delve deeply into the details of The Well-Tempered Clavier, but to begin to be appropriate they would need to be thicker than the whole packet you are holding. Instead, these notes will aim to share with you the very personal story of how this CD came into being.

Many years ago, the Borromeo String Quartet and the great musicologist and Beethoven scholar Lewis Lockwood presented a lecture about the late Beethoven String Quartets. In the lecture, Mr. Lockwood explained the way The Well-Tempered Clavier worked its way into Op. 130/133, Op. 131, and Op. 132. To help illustrate this, the Borromeo Quartet performed the B Minor Fugue from Book One, a piece that Beethoven actually wrote out in quartet scoring and quoted directly in Op. 131. Playing this Fugue got me thinking how wonderful it would be to bring the whole Well-Tempered Clavier into the world of string quartet playing! I love these works on the keyboard, but what if the music was brought to life in the way a quartet makes music, where four "singers" bring their combined insight to each detail of the music? I learned that the idea of transcribing The Well-Tempered Clavier for string quartet was something Baron van Swieten, the great Austrian music patron, had successfully encouraged Mozart to do in connection with van Swieten's musical soirees. These gatherings over the years included not only Mozart, but Haydn and eventually Beethoven. Mozart’s response to this idea resulted in the 8 Fugues arranged for trio and quartet included in K. 404 and 405. I was fascinated to try this idea, but for many years it remained something I couldn’t even begin to find time for.

Beijing traffic was what opened the door to further progress!

In January 2015, the Borromeo Quartet was collaborating with the Forbidden City Ensemble of Beijing and pianist Meng-Chieh Liu. It was a fulfilling partnership, but every time that we moved anywhere in the city to rehearse or play, we spent nearly an hour in traffic. Not having to drive myself, I decided to dive into the project that had been waiting so long - arranging Book One for string quartet. And indeed, after a few more traffic jams, I had a good start.

Once we left China, a long time passed before I was able continue working on The Well-Tempered Clavier transcriptions. My next opportunity did not come until the four-week period in June and July when the BSQ was teaching at the Taos School of Music in New Mexico. I made a special effort to finish the transcriptions while at Taos, and as the plane touched down in Boston after the four weeks, I finished the last notes of the last Fugue! After so many years, the transcription was finally done!

Now the challenge was to learn these new pieces and see how well they might work for string quartet. In Fall 2015, we presented eight of the 24 in a public concert. Getting a very enthusiastic response, we decided to perform and record the whole book during the summer of 2016. You are holding what was born from that work. And let me take this opportunity to express my deep gratitude to my colleagues in the quartet - Kristopher Tong, Mai Motobuchi, and Yeesun Kim. They have devoted tremendous creativity, openness and hard work to bringing these works to life into a new form, and I deeply appreciate their commitment to bringing these pieces into our quartet’s repertoire.

One of the remarkable experiences of preparing these many pieces was the surprising transformations. We had all sorts of first impressions: "this one works so well," "this one is a little harder," "this one is awkward." Often these first reactions would flip entirely. A Prelude or Fugue that seemed really unwieldy became a favorite; one that seemed easy at first became much more challenging.

While most of the transcriptions seemed to work well, a few really needed development. One in particular, the C Minor Prelude, went through a very lively process of experimentation in rehearsal, with all of us bringing in new approaches. (You can see some of this work in our scores reproduced in the margins of this booklet.)

In general, playing this music in string quartet brings out a special kind of listening. In all music, your inner ear must guide your instrument to sing the meaning of the pitches. But doing this in these particular 48 pieces brings you into a rarified listening-scape. Each pitch and all of its surrounding intervals demand to be heard with exquisite intensity by all four of us - all of the time. If you bring this intensity of listening to any music it will be more beautiful, but The Well-Tempered Clavier demands it. It will not even begin to come to life without it. These pieces are soulful, joyous, witty, and intense in a way that must be felt completely, but that does not benefit from exaggeration. This is music of tremendous emotion, but it does not use drama to bring its ideas to life. You have to play the dialogue of the parts feeling and hearing the intrinsic character of every detail, creating the meaning of every interval as it forms, no more, and no less. This has a kinship with the kind of listening that benefits much great quartet music, and this is probably no accident, considering the depth of the way so many great quartet composers took The Well-Tempered Clavier into their musical work. But in The Well-Tempered Clavier, the combination of complex intensity and completely distilled musical and emotional content makes demands on your listening that are extreme. Responding to these demands makes us stronger in our control and more sensitive in our perception. We come away with a clearer understanding of what is really the essence of musical meaning and spirit. Playing this music as a string quartet we have felt the joy of discovering a new perspective on the intricate treasure that is The Well-Tempered Clavier. We hope by making this recording that we can share with you some of this joy of discovery and rediscovery, and we hope even more that with our playing we can bring out at least some of the astonishing spirit that Bach was able to share with us through this music.


NICHOLAS KITCHEN
(Once again benefitting from transportation) Written on the bus in Romania, November 4, 2016

THE BORROMEO STRING QUARTET

Each visionary performance of the award-winning Borromeo String Quartet strengthens and deepens its reputation as one of the most important ensembles of our time. Admired and sought after for both its fresh interpretations of the classical music canon and its championing of works by 20th and 21st century composers, the ensemble has been hailed for its “edge-of-the-seat performances” by The Boston Globe, which called it “simply the best.”

Recently celebrating its 25th Anniversary, the Borromeo continues to be a pioneer in its use of technology, and has the trailblazing distinction of being the first string quartet to utilize laptop computers on the concert stage. Reading music this way helps push artistic boundaries, allowing the artists to perform solely from 4-part scores and composers’ manuscripts, a revealing and transformative experience, which these dedicated musicians now teach to students around the world. As The New York Times noted, “The digital tide washing over society is lapping at the shores of classical music. The Borromeo players have embraced it in their daily musical lives like no other major chamber music group.” Moreover, the Quartet often leads discussions enhanced by projections of handwritten manuscripts, investigating with the audience the creative process of the composer. And in 2003, the Borromeo became the first classical ensemble to make its own live concert recordings and videos, distributing them to audiences through its Living Archive.

Borromeo has presented more than 10 string quartet cycles by beloved masters such as Bartok, Beethoven, and Brahms, and it has enjoyed collaborations with John Cage, Gyorgy Ligeti, Gunther Schuller, Osvaldo Golijov, Lera Auerbach, Jennifer Higdon, Steve Mackey, John Harbison, Derek Bermel, and Pierre Jalbert, among many others. The Quartet has been ensemble-in-residence at the New England Conservatory and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum for 23 years; and has worked extensively as performers and educators at the Library of Congress (highlighting both its manuscripts and instrument collections), the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and the Taos School of Music.

Among its many engagements are those in Switzerland, Japan, Korea and China; Bartók cycles in Boston, San Francisco, and Washington (at the Library of Congress); and appearances at the Schubert Club in Minneapolis, Carnegie Hall, Chamber Music Society of Fort Worth, Shriver Concerts in Baltimore, and the Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival..

“Nothing less than masterful” (Cleveland.com), the Borromeo Quartet has received numerous awards throughout its illustrious career, including Lincoln Center’s Avery Fisher Career Grant and Martin E. Segal Award, and Chamber Music America’s Cleveland Quartet Award. It was also a recipient of the Young Concert Artists International Award and top prizes at the International String Quartet Competition in Evian, France.



The process of creating this CD:

After Nicholas Kitchen transcribed for string quartet the 24 pairs of Preludes and Fugues that make up Book One of The Well-Tempered Clavier, mostly in 2015, the BSQ performed it at the Taos School of Music and the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival in the summer of 2016. In July 2016, the BSQ recorded all 48 pieces in four sessions in Jordan Hall at the New England Conservatory of Music assisted by Jeremy Sarna and Loren Stata. Kitchen then edited the material from these sessions into the tracks you hear today.

The bowls in the photographs on this CD were created by the son of Nicholas Kitchen and Yeesun Kim, Christopher Kitchen, born 2003, who has shown a very wonderful talent in pottery. While searching for a graphic element to represent the concept of the 12 pitch centers that Bach works with, the idea emerged to use 12 bowls made by Christopher. There is a simplicity to their slightly varied round forms, but the depth of complexity in the details of the glazing reflect the intricacy in Bach's music. The silk carpet behind the bowls was bought during a Borromeo String Quartet tour in Ephesus, Turkey, and represents Noah's Ark. The pairs from the Noah story combined with the 12 bowls for 12 tones seem an evocative analog for Bach's pairs of Major and Minor Preludes and Fugues in each of the 12 tones within an octave.

Photos of the Borromeo Quartet and NEC's Jordan Hall by Alex Hug
Photos of the 12 bowls and the silk carpet by Nicholas Kitchen

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