Edin Karamazov (HR)

When: Thursday, 13. 8. 2015 at 20:30

Ticket order:

Ticket price: 5 / 20 / 25 EUR

Festibus: 18:00 - Ljubljana - Kostanjevica na Krki - Ljubljana (10,00 EUR)

Edin Karamazov (lute)

Johann Sebastian Bach
Original violin & original cello music transcribed for the lute


Transcriptions, re-workings, transpositions and arrangements were part of baroque musical life and Bach was no stranger to these practices. A contemporary commented that Bach would play the solo violin Sonatas and Partitas on the harpsichord adding as much in the way of harmony or basses that he found necessary. We have examples of Bach’s arrangements of other peoples’ compositions as well as his own. When Bach wrote for the lute he did not write new works especially for the instrument but reworked compositions of his that already existed in other forms. Instead of labouring over perpetuating the idea that the so-called lute pieces of Bach are proper lute pieces Edin Karamazov prefers to take the works for unaccompanied violin or cello and make them into new works for lute, keeping (as much as possible) to the original text, musical intention, phrasing and articulation, yet transforming them in a way particular to the lute so that they are satisfying to play and to hear.


About the project 

Edin Karamazov prefers not to use the words ‘lute transcriptions of the originals for violin or cello.’ but circumvents the issue by saying ‘lute versions of pieces based on the violin/cello versions’. The violin or cello versions themselves are so often not born on the instruments themselves, but come from some musical ideal above and beyond any instrument. In Bach’s lifetime, some of these works were adapted for other instruments by Bach himself and by instrumentalists in his circle, including his son and son-in-law. So it seems a natural extension of these works to try them on the lute. There’s an interesting anecdote, related by a contemporary of Bach, that often in the evenings he would sit down at the clavichord and play the Sonatas and Partitas for Violin, extemporizing the voices and harmonies which are impossible on the violin. It’s no mystery to a lute player why he would choose the clavichord because of all the keyboard instruments this is the one with the musical language closest to the lute in terms of touch, dynamics and intimacy. This is an extremely creative and gratifying project because when one is playing so much Bach, one sort of lives artistically — and a little bit in some other way — on a different plane of existence. After all, as Stravinsky said, “Bach is our greatest European composer,” something with which almost anyone would agree. There are so many instances in the Sonatas and Partitas or in Cello Suites, especially in contrapuntal passages, where the music seems to be almost not for the violin, but against the violin. Often the violinist is reduced to an awkwardness of bowing, trying to play different voices at the same time with a bow primarily intended for playing a single line on a single string. Although there are other examples of polyphonic playing on the violin from Germany in the generation before Bach, the demands of the Sonatas and Partitas really seem to go beyond the instrument in several cases. All in all, Karamazov thinks that it is worth listening to the more peaceful approach, the more non-violent approach that the lute can bring to these works.


About the concert programme

Bach was a musical ecologist, the masterful recycler of his own compositions, arranging more than a few from one instrument or combination of instruments to another. Many of his works seem conceived on a somewhat abstract plane, above and beyond any specific instrument, and it was completely natural for the pragmatic eighteenth-century mind and ear to adapt them to the instruments of its choice.

Among the so-called “official” lute works of Bach, there exist two such adaptations: From the solo violin repertoire, the Third Partita, BWV 1006, becomes BWV 1006a for the Lute, and the Fifth Cello suite is transformed into the Lute Suite in g minor, BWV 995. Of course, lutenists had been adapting music for their instrument for centuries. More than half of the continental lute music of the Renaissance is made up of adaptations of vocal works. In the French baroque, Robert de Visee couldn’t stop making transcriptions for his theorbo of orchestral and keyboard works by his contemporaries. The great German lutenist, a friend of Bach’s, was said to have played violin concertos directly on the lute.

These examples of adaptations are not given as kind of “justification” for the present project as if the idea needed to be defended historically. It is more to guide the modern musical thinker (who sometimes knows more about “authenticity” then did the musicians of former times) to the state of experimentation and discovery that is completely natural for the musician, who sits alone with one’s instrument without a score, playing melodies and harmonies that he or she has heard here or there and making them his or her own. There is alchemy to this creative moment which has been part of the musician’s world from the beginning of time.

Karamazov is not the first person to have rethought Bach’s cello & violin solo music on a member of the Lute family. There have been some beautiful renditions of these works on the Baroque lute as well on the French/Italian theorbo or chitarrone (the terms can be used interchangeably). For various reasons, neither of these instruments match the sound and aesthetic ideal that I find most appropriate for the first of the six suites for cello solo. On the baroque lute, if one is to use the full range of the instrument, the suite must be transposed to a register where they lose the robust chest-voiced character which is an inherent part of the melodiousness of the first Suite for cello. On the lower pitched theorbo/chitarrone, we do find this character, but since the instrument is almost universally single strung, we lose some of the lute’s nobility and eloquence that is derived from its double strings and notably, in the lower register, from the octave strings that are coupled with the basses and give them a ringing openness and transparency.

Bach’s writing in cello and violin suites is as varied and inventive as ever. Melodious, boisterous, amazingly delicate, expansive lyrical, then cleverly busy with detail in complicated figuration… Karamazov so sees his intention in arranging for a plucked instrument as a challenge to approach “what Bach himself might have done” in adapting a piece from one medium to another. No one can ever know for sure, of course, but familiarity with his chamber music and keyboard works give clues. Where the cello writing is melodious with occasional chords (places in the allemandes and sarabandes), the plucked instrument can provide a fuller accompaniment; where an unaccompanied melodic figure is repeated (courante of the First Cello suite), a bass can be added that clarifies the harmonic sequences; where the capricious turns of phrase and wry humour (Gigue of the Violin Partita) suggest polyphonic continuity, the lute-instrument can realize this; where a single melody seems to suggest the need for an independent bass line (Menuett of the First Cello suite), a bass can be created; where one voice in the cello or violin score suggests two or three (in the Allemandes), these voices can be further developed on the Archlute, etc. The tempos may occasionally be somewhat of a surprise to listeners used to solo cello or violin versions. With the resonance and fuller harmonies of the lute, one tends to roll more with some of the more robust dance rhythms of these suites, with no need to rush through. The silence beyond the music is the constant friend and companion of any player of early plucked instruments.



Concert programme

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750)

Suite I. (BWV 1007)
6 Suites a Violoncello Solo senza Basso.


Partia 2da á Violino Solo senza Basso.. (BWV 1004)
Sei solo. à Violino senza Basso accompagnato. Libro Primo. Da Joh: Seb: Bach. ao: 1720.


Kostanjevica na Krki, Former Cistercian Monastery

In 1234 established Cistercian monastery of Mary Studenec till the abolition in 1785, represented a center of religious, Enlightenment, in economic life.



The price of coach provided for all concerts from Ljubljana and Zagreb is 10€. Departure from Hala Tivoli and Lisinski Hall.