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Bach Sonatas and Partitas Vol 1 (Nonesuch)

As anyone who is aware of the astonishing instrumentalist Chris Thile from his work with Nickel Creek as a precocious teenager, and since with Punch Brothers and elsewhere, will have guessed, this is indeed an album of early classical compositions played on the mandolin.

No, wait. Bach Sonatas and Partitas are very special things in the right hands – I will remember violinist Alexander Janiczek playing in Orkney's Italian Chapel until my mind goes. Thile's instrument is, of course, tuned just as a fiddle, and has a long history, so this is a less of leap than you might think.

Thile is also skilled beyond any obvious deployment of the word virtuosic. He was always been a quite astonishing player and the "Presto" tempo movements here are jaw-dropping in their precision, articulation, and sound-barrier-trashing sheer speed. Beautifully recorded by bassist and regular collaborator Edgar Meyer, the disc is also just as impressive on the slow Andante in the Sonata No2. Thile says he was inspired to learn Bach after hearing Glenn Gould's sensational second recording of the Goldberg Variations, and this album is worthy of a place on any shelf alongside that classic.

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