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Wednesday, May 10, 2023

Back To Bach - The Swingle Singers


Prelude And Fugue In C Major

Back To Bach
The Swingle Singers
All selections composed by Johanna Sebastian Bach
Adapted and Arranged by Ward Swingle
Philips STEREO PHS 600-288

From the back cover: The Swingle singers have followed the horizon around a world of music and returned to typing of their departure. The world is round and varied. The passed thru other lands and tomes, but the wheel has now come full circle. They are back to Bach.

The Swingle Singers first recorded Bach in 1963 and by accident (perhaps) conquered three worlds of music. America fell first and the rest of the world capitulated immediately when "Bach's Greatest Hits" first appeared on the international horizon in the spring of 1964. With apparent ease, the Swingle Singers did with one album what George Gershwin spent a lifetime trying to do – to break down the impenetrable barriers of classical, jazz and pop music.

"Bach's Greatest Hits" at last got the feet of classical music-lovers tapping; it took the group to the top of the best-selling popular charts (a first for Bach as well as for the Swingle Singers) and won immediate recognition with a "first-place" award in the vocal category of "Downbeat's" international Jazz critics poll. More important, it opened up to countless ordinary pop fans the delights of classical music in general, and Bach, in particular.

Their first record also began a Bach craze in both jazz and pop. Old Johann Sebastian's works found their way into countless jazz instrumental performances and even into rock-gourd numbers like A Whiter Shade Of Pale.

But the Single Singers, like most of the really creative artist whose work begins a movement, had already moved on to new territory by the time other musicians were jumping onto the Bach bandwagon. The Swingle Singers moved on to other Baroque composers, proving that their astonishing musicianship could be applied to the whole field classical music. They gave their upbeat interpretation of Handel and Vivaldi before moving on through the Rococo period to the Classical and Romantic prompters. Not content with that they then turned to Spain and painted a vivid picture of that country's distinctive music from the eighteenth to the twentieth century.

If it appears that there is an "intelligence" directing the evolution of the Swingle Singers as they pass through the world of music, that motivating force is most likely the groups' founder and leader, War Swingle. Back in 1964 after the huge success of the first Bach album Swingle said: "What I'd like to do is to through the composers chronologically. But whatever music we take, we'll try to show it the same respect that I believe we showed Bach." He has done just that in every record to date, with Back To Bach (the result of persistent public demand) reflection an ambition fulfilled.

Though the group's travels since first recording Bach have been carefully planned, the first album (the very idea to sing Bach, in fact) happened fortuitously. The Swingle Singers formed in 1962 with the aim of singing exact vocal versions of "Classic" big-band jazz recordings, a tough task if one considers the difficulties of reproducing vocally a Dizzy Gillespie trumpet solo. The group, all classically trained musicians, most of them with the sixth sense of perfect pitch, sang Bach simply for practice.

Swingle has confessed that the group brought Bach into their musical life though the back door. "We started singing Bach strictly to improve our sight-reading and musicianship. The idea of swinging it came later," he said. "When we added the bass and drums, we spent a great dal of time trying to figure out the exact bass lines, using as great a variety of colors as we could in the percussion without destroying the basic feeling or the composer's intention."

And this is exactly what they have done in this album. The selection again range from the universally known (like the C major Prelude which Gounod adapted for his Ave Maria) to works familiar only to the classical music lover. For the most part, the selection are more adventurous and widely representative of Bach's art than those of the first album, which concentrated on his keyboard compositions.

Once again the Swingle Singers have taken music from another age, mastered its meaning, and then, adding to it their own feeling, rendered it in contemporary terms.

Vivace - Concerto for two Violins in D Minor
Prelude And Fugue In E Minor - from The Well Tempered Clavier
Choral - Cantata
Gavotte - from the Partita No. 3 for Violin Solo
Prelude And Fugue In C Major - from The Well Tempered Clavier
Fugue In G Major For Organ
Adagio - Sonata No. 3 for Violin and Harpsichord
Prelude And Fugue In C Major - from The Well Tempered Clavier
Prelude For Organ Choral - Now Comes The Christian Savior
Fugue In E Flat Major - from The Well Tempered Clavier

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