Initially performed by the arranger as a marimba solo, Andrea Venet arranges these two movements from Bach’s Lute Suite in C Minor for Marimba and Vibraphone. Fluid polyphony, varied tone color and interaction between multiple voices allow Baroque music to translate well to keyboard percussion instruments. This arrangement highlights that translation beautifully.
It is very exciting to see the Escape X repertoire available for purchase through Keyboard Percussion Publications. The duo has been very active in the past few years commissioning and performing new works at an incredibly high level, and this Bach lute arrangement is a good example. Taken from Bach’s Lute Suite in C minor, BWV 997, the “Gigue and Double” are the final two movements from the collection. Andrea Venet has effectively transferred a solo work into a keyboard duet, utilizing Bach’s frequent internal dialogues and registral transfers as opposed to simply using the marimba as the bass voice and giving the vibraphone everything else.
Venet’s arrangement began as a marimba solo before being realized as a duet with vibraphone. This is apparent in the noticeable difference in textures between the two parts. The marimba is constantly coordinating bass motion with frequent melodic fragments, while the vibraphone is frequently playing singular melodic lines, often with ornamentations.
As a side note, Venet includes a helpful Baroque ornamentation key and tips for playing this music appropriately. Venet recommends four mallets for both players, but the vibraphone part could be performed using two; however, that may limit fluidity across the keyboard, given the nature of the work.
Of the two movements, the “Double” works exceptionally well as a duet with the vibraphone, althought significantly more difficult from an ensemble perspective. Venet successfully uses the timbral difference to enhance the dialogue and harmonic motion of the work. The double instrumentation also helps to intenstfy the changing feels within the movement between a fast double-time and a more traditional 6/8.
Both movements together combine to form an effective, exciting pair that fits within any senior recital or graduate recital looking to include some Bach on marimba and vibraphone. I look forward to seeing more music written or commissioned by Escape X as they continue to publish and expand the repertoire for percussion duets.
-Matthew Geiger, Percussive Notes, July 2019