"I did this record about thirty
years ago, it was a labour of love"
This is what George Fields says about his collection of multi track
renditions of some of the masterworks by JS Bach. All the recorded parts on this CD are
played by George Fields on bass as well as chromatic harmonicas. The present CD is a
compilation of all of the tracks from an earlier vinyl record plus a few extra pieces
which he recorded at the same time. All of the recording, mixing and mastering of the
original tracks was done by Mr Fields in his own home.
I quote the sleeve note:-'This music almost begs to be executed and even
if the performer elects to interpret with a tin whistle or Kazoo, Bach's music will still
survive unscathed if that interpretation maintains valid parameters of good taste and
precision' I fully agree with this view and Bach's music not only survives but flourishes
in the hands of master harmonica player George Fields.
Having said that, there are a couple of aspects I do not like about the CD
and I can only assume that the things I complain about are associated with the 'additional
tracks' which were not on the original. On a couple of the tracks the slider noise is as
loud as the music... and considering there are three or four tracks at this point that is
a lot of noise. It could be argued that all instruments make a noise (string noise on a
guitar for example) but the harmonica slide can be made virtually silent... you just
should not hear it on a recording. The other point is that a couple of the pieces are best
regarded as 'interesting'.
I am being harsh about this because the quality and musicianship of the
rest of the tracks is superb. If you want to hear supreme bass playing listen to the crisp
articulation and beautiful phrases woven in the lower parts, blending into a continuous
line with a 16 hole chromatic... there were times when I found it hard to decide which
instrument was playing. The sheer precision of the chromatic playing, in all registers, is
breathtaking and the first couple of times through most of the tracks left me wondering :
"How does he do that??" The chromatic playing just needs to be heard to realise
you are listening to a master. I know of no one today who can match this playing. (Bach is
my own field of study)
This is not just a CD of harmonica pyrotechnics, you are very soon
captivated by the music itself. A Two Part Inventions numbers 10 and 13 (tracks 5 &
7), Little Fugue in G Minor (tr. 11) Fugue number 7 (tr.15) and the beautiful Sinfonia
number 11 (tr.16) were all stunning to listen to. All of these are best listened to as
single pieces with a long silence after each, they also bear repeating many times.
Scholarship has advanced since George Fields created these recordings and
musical style and tastes have also changed. However, after the first few notes you forget
the slightly romantic reading of many of the pieces because he makes them sound so right.
Mr Fields mentions the great harpsichordist Wanda Landowska. She played a harpsichord
which consisted of a grand piano style body and an iron frame, far removed from the
instrument Bach would have played. She was the forefront of the revival of the music of
Bach on harpsichord. However. I believe that George Fields will be recognised as the
person who has opened the door to Bach on the harmonica with this recording. You recognise
the true worth of a piece of recorded music when you find yourself coming back to it again
and again and continuing to find new meaning and new aspects to listen to. This CD is
worth buying whatever style of music you listen to, you cannot fail to be enthralled.