- Sonata for solo violin No. 1 in G minor, BWV 1001
This is not a one-off novelty outing for banjoist John Bullard, who has recorded classical music on the banjo before. And the combination is feasible: the banjo, and its bluegrass compatriot the mandolin, had a large and almost completely vanished presence in American parlor music on either side of the year 1900, playing music that was not necessarily intended for the symphony hall, but was not bluegrass, old-time music, or music for the minstrel show. That repertoire is well worth discovering, and Bullard himself has played Renaissance pieces on the banjo to delightful effect. The Baroque fare by Handel, Bach, and others on the release is less successful, although banjo experimentalists such as those who follow the innovative Canadian genre-crosser Jayme Stone, who produced this album, will doubtless enjoy it. Baroque music thrives on clear terraces of sound, but the appeal of the banjo's sound is precisely that it contains a lot of information extraneous to the exact pitch of the note played. There are pieces by Schumann and Grieg, accompanied by piano, that are easier to imagine in a context of century-old music-making, but sample one of the Baroque pieces, like the "Andante" from Telemann's "Partita No. 5," to find out whether this particular experiment will appeal to you. The arrangements, mostly by Bullard himself, clearly let the banjo show through a small Baroque orchestra, with lute and archlute continuo, and the album is well recorded.