You never know when or why a piece will hit you in a new way, but it’s always a wonderful feeling when it happens.
A few years ago at GFA, I remember hearing a guitar-duo performance of Bach’s famous Chaconne (from Partita for Violin No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1004) for the first time, and feeling that having two guitars tackling the iconic piece—long a rite of passage (or, more accurately, Sisyphean hill to climb) for serious solo players—somehow diminished the work. Most likely, I just wasn’t open to the two-guitar approach to that piece that day, because everything else the duo played completely knocked me out and the audience loved their Chaconne unreservedly.
So, when I recently came across this February 2020 performance video by the always-fantastic Beijing Guitar Duo—Meng Su and Yameng Wang—I was, frankly, a little skeptical. After all, it has the same origins as the other version: the solo piano arrangement by Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924), transcribed for two guitars by Ulrich Stracke. But for some reason this Beijing version hit me differently, and it has now turned my opinion around. I can now see the power and depth of the two-guitar arrangement in a way that I could not before. I was clearly being too rigid in my evaluation of the other duo’s performance. I’ve seen the light! See what you think.
A recording of the Beijing Guitar Duo’s Chaconne appeared on their 2001 album, Bach to Tan Dun. —Blair Jackson