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Album Review: Three Part Invention: Improvisations on Bach
Philip Aaberg
Cover image of the album Three Part Invention: Improvisations on Bach by Philip Aaberg
Three Part Invention: Improvisations on Bach
Philip Aaberg
2009 / Sweetgrass Music
48 minutes
Review by Kathy Parsons
JS Bach is often remembered as an amazing improvisor of his own work as well as that of other composers. Contemporary artists improvising on Bach’s music is not a new idea, but when stellar musicians such as Philip Aaberg (piano), Eugene Friesen (cello), and Tracy Silverman (violin and six-string viola) combine forces, the improvisations become an event - true to the original spirit of the music yet bright and shiny new. Graduates of Harvard, Yale, and Juilliard, the trio brings varied backgrounds in classical, rock ‘n’ roll, jazz, new age, and avant-garde music and merges all of these influences with their life-long love of Bach’s music. Although the improvisations go in many different directions, the music is recognizable. Eugene Friesen renamed the pieces, but the original titles are also listed, allowing listeners to seek out the originals for comparison or to refresh their memories. One of the things I really love about this album is the obvious joy that the musicians are sharing by making music together. The sound quality of this recording is also exceptional - clean and pristine yet warm and soulful.

The first trio is “Arioso” from Cantata #156. Jazzy from the first notes, all three artists have a chance to cook on this one. I love “Air On a Six-String”! Friesen’s cello leads the way, but each artist has a place in the spotlight with a slightly different interpretation of the haunting melody. Aaberg provides an exotic rhythm in the background that gives the piece wings. My favorite track is “The New Orleans Concerto,” which comes from the first movement of The Italian Concerto. Philip Aaberg has been one of my favorite artists for years, and I especially enjoy his blues piano, so this one gets me every time! Pure, unadulterated joy pours out of his piano as the cello and violin dance around it. “Betrayal” (Prelude #2 in Cm) is another favorite. Dark, edgy, and slightly mysterious, it really rocks! “Oath” (Prelude #3 is C#) is much more delicate, with all three musicians showing their gentler sides. “Candlelight” (Prelude #8 in Ebm) is elegant and graceful with strong feelings of loss and melancholy. “Seduction” (Three-part Invention #15) is more energetic and edgy, totally surrendering at the end.

Three Part Invention is a captivating musical experience, and one that I highly recommend. It is available from sweetgrassmusic.com, tracysilverman.com, Amazon, and CD Baby. Check it out!
April 26, 2010
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