Video Pick of the Week: Ben Verdery Plays Bach’s Magnificent ‘Chaconne’

The Chaconne from J.S. Bach’s Partita for Solo Violin in D Minor BWV 1004 has, through the years, become one of the most popular works of the entire classical guitar canon. Segovia conquered it; John Williams, Julian Bream, Angel Romero and many others have performed and recorded it. It’s an inspiring and deeply moving work that is also a tremendous challenge for any guitarist. To play this sprawling yet intricate piece well requires a very high level of technique and passion. Well, Benjamin Verdery—chair of Yale University’s superb Guitar Department, a composer of considerable renown, champion of other modern composers, innovative arranger, and all-around good guy—is brimming with both of those qualities. And they are very much in evidence on this wonderful Chaconne, which seems all the more magnificent in this video shot on the beautiful Hawaiian island of Maui, where Verdery teaches a guitar course every summer and calls a second home. Stunning!

Also, if you get the chance, go to Ben’s website and read his extensive and very thoughtful notes on his long relationship with the Chaconne, and how the threat of planetary global warming helped inspire this particular rendition, which was recorded and then shot this past summer. (A previous Verdery Chaconne appeared on his 2006 CD, Branches, which also included other arrangements of Bach, Strauss, Mozart, and Jimi Hendrix.)  —Blair Jackson