April 4, 2012

Bach With Harp

“Lara St. John happens to be a volcanic violinist with a huge, fabulous tone that pours out of her like molten lava. But what makes her unique is the way she puts everything together. She has utter command of the material and the instrument.“ Los Angeles Times, 2011

Celebrated violinist Lara St. John and Marie-Pierre Langlamet, principal harpist of the Berlin Philharmonic, present an album of J.S. Bach sonatas offering a new perspective and performed on violin and harp. The album will be released as an iTunes digital exclusive on January 17, 2012, with a wide release to all retailers on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2012.

This is Lara St. John’s third foray into Bach on her Ancalagon label. About her first, The Concerto Album released in 2002, Gramophone wrote, “She makes the most ordinary passages come to life…. It is difficult to argue with such technically dazzling and unfailingly musical interpretations.” Of her second album, The Six Sonatas and Partitas for Violin Solo released in 2007, American Record Guide stated, “I simply don't know where else you can go to hear Bach played at this level of artistry.”

St. John shares the inspiration behind this recording: “I have had a lifelong relationship with Bach’s solo instrumental works, from when I was four years old and first performed the double concerto with my brother, to my first E Major Partita movements a few years later. As a Canadian, I grew up with the omnipresent Glenn Gould. Oddly, as a pre-teen, I also developed an obsession with Bach’s organ works.”

“The Sonatas for Violin and Harpsichord eluded me. Of course I had known them for a long time, but somehow I never thought they quite clicked. With harpsichord, I found them rather unsubtle, and modern piano always seemed so heavy-handed and just not quite right.

“A few years ago, I was in Berlin staying with my old friend Marie-Pierre, and she wanted to read some Bach. We began with BWV 1016, and it was a revelation. All of a sudden, this music made sense. With harp as a partner, the degree of nuance made possible for the violin created an entirely new experience. I thought that evening that I had never heard or been part of anything so beautiful.

“For this recording, we chose sonatas that could be performed by Marie-Pierre exactly as written. In her hands, the harp is a true multi-voice instrument – an equal partner in the faster movements, yet capable of an aural luminescence in the quieter movements that no keyboard could ever match.”

Marie-Pierre responds, “Only Lara could have suggested such a crazy thing to do. I am really glad we did it, for I feel the result is quite original. It is fascinating to watch Lara work, a great mix of incredible professionalism and complete freedom.”