MUSIC

Albums available in digital and physical formats.

24 Preludes for Solo Banjo:

Book I Preludes I-VI

John Bullard plays new classical pieces written for solo banjo by composer Adam Larrabee. This EP length CD is Book I, Preludes I-VI.

24 Preludes for Solo Banjo, celebrates the long-standing tradition of classical musicians writing pieces in all major and minor keys to showcase an instrument’s versatility and capability in all keys as well as the breadth of tonal palette and timbres each various key has to offer. JS Bach, Chopin, Shostakovich and many others have written 24 preludes in this tradition. The Banjo — being a relatively new instrument (early 1800’s) and relegated almost exclusively to folk music since that time, with a brief foray into popular classical music — has not inherited the same legacy that traditional classical instruments have. These solo banjo preludes are written in a mostly early 20th-century, at times almost neo-classical style. I hope that more composers continue to write for the banjo in this way to create a new 21st century repertoire for this beautifully unique and versatile instrument!
—Adam Larrabee, 2018

Classical Banjo: The Perfect Southern Art

John Bullard plays five-string banjo, which you might expect from a southerner. But there’s a gothic twist: he plays classical music. If you think about it, it’s actually the perfect southern art—a gentleman playing classical music on a banjo. One minute he’s bush-hogging a field on his John Deere tractor, the next he’s on his porch playing a Bach partita. And to be clear: these aren’t bluegrass renditions, they’re exact classical transcriptions done by someone who’s been devotedly drawn to Baroque and Renaissance music for 30 years.  

 

Bullard’s new album, Classical Banjo: The Perfect Southern Art, is the summation of his life’s work. Over a dozen musicians and an eight-person choir helped make this unprecedented album of (mostly) complete works by Baroque and Romantic composers. Just as Cormac McCarthy is called “a writer’s writer,” you might call John Bullard “a banjo player’s banjo player.” Classical Banjo: The Perfect Southern Art presents a variety of tone color, beautifully executed ornamentation, and sensitive interpretations. The pieces are fragile and intimate in Bullard’s hands. Peaceful and austere. If you close your eyes you might think you’re listening to a harpsichord, but it’s not. It’s banjo as you’ve never heard it: as a perfect southern art.

 

Producer Jayme Stone says, “I think of John as a singular figure—the only genuine classical banjoist. Someone who is connected with a lineage of classical musicians and has that lifelong, monk-like dedication. He came to me ready to sum up his life’s work. I helped him present his music in a more grand way—to reflect its maturity, depth, and rigour.”

Bach On The Banjo

 “John Bullard has attracted international attention for his work in developing and transcribing classical repertoire for the five-string banjo. And the attention is well-deserved. This recording is a beautiful collection of familiar baroque pieces performed on banjo, guitar, mandolin, cello, violin and harpsichord. Usually, it is just the banjo and guitar playing in duet. Just to be clear: these are not bluegrass renditions of baroque music, they are straightforward, authentic and lovely performances of exact transcriptions from the originals. In this recording the banjo becomes an instrument the equal to any of its baroque relatives. The short decay and overtone resonance of the banjo evokes an old-world sound usually reserved for authentic-instruments performances.

 One can easily imagine that if the banjo had existed in 18th century Europe that it would now have its own often-performed classical repertoire. John is an accomplished musician, presenting a variety of tone color, beautifully executed ornamentation, and a sensitive interpretation. These pieces become fragile and intimate in his hands and the overall effect is peaceful and austere. He and the other musicians on the recording contribute to the transcriptions and they’ve done a masterful job. The use of single bowed string instruments for the Vivaldi Concerto maintains the feeling of intimacy and allows the banjo solo to take centre stage.

  I highly recommend this recording, especially to fans of the guitar but also to Baroque music lovers in general. This recording proves that Bach is truly for everyone. I find it exciting that every musician has the power and ability to adapt Bach for their favorite instrument and make it their own; giving us the opportunity to benefit from their love of the music and also to hear it in a new way. ”

— Jan Hanford, jsbach.org

 

The Classical Banjo

“John Bullard has attracted international attention for his work in developing and transcribing classical repertoire for the five-string banjo. And the attention is well-deserved. Just to be clear: these are not bluegrass renditions of baroque music, they are straightforward, authentic and lovely performances of exact transcriptions from the originals. The banjo is clearly the equal to any of its baroque relatives and makes an easy and delightful transition to these familiar, and some not familiar, baroque pieces.

 I fell in love with the banjo after just a few minutes of listening. John Bullard’s mastery of the banjo is astonishing. He is on the same level as traditional classical guitar performances and, with his musical sensitivity and outstanding technique, has exceeded some. His ornamentation, variation of tone and dynamics are excellent and his interpretation reflects both intelligence and emotion. The delicate sound of the banjo, and the appropriately understated accompanying instruments, creates an intimate musical experience.

 The interpretations of Bach are, of course, beautiful. But the addition of some of his contemporaries is also excellent; the Scarlatti is particularly well done. And the combinations of instruments, i.e. the banjo and cello for the John Downland, is really gorgeous. I love everything about this recording and highly recommend it! ”

— Jan Hanford, jsbach.org

           


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