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Planet Hugill asks Yuri Liberzon; What would Bach do?

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Planet Hugill writes.......The guitarist Yuri Liberzon is not (yet) well-known in the UK. Born in Russia and brought up in Israel he moved to the USA at the age of 17 to study at the Peabody Conservatory and is now based in California. His latest disc, on Laudable Records, is Johann Sebastian Bach's three Sonatas for Unaccompanied Violin in transcriptions made by his teacher, Cuban guitarist Manuel Barrueco. I recently met up with Yuri via Zoom, braving the challenges of time differences (9.30 am in California being 5.30 pm in London) to find out more about the disc and his approach to transcribing Bach for the guitar.

My first question was why play Bach on the guitar at all? For Yuri, Bach is always valid and appropriate, and the guitar is the most popular instrument in the world. And since Andres Segovia, it has become normal to play Bach on the instrument. Besides which, like many musicians, Yuri finds himself constantly returning to Bach's music and Yuri plays the guitar, so the question is, why not? 

Yuri has transcribed Bach's Partitas for unaccompanied violin for guitar, but he found that his teacher's transcriptions of the sonatas were perfect. Yuri did not have enough to say to do his own transcriptions, though he made small changes to Barrueco's transcriptions. One of the important things is that Barrueco keeps the original keys. When playing individual sonatas, guitarists sometimes alter the keys, but as soon as Yuri decided he was going to record all three he realised he needed to keep the key relationships.

His heroes start with guitarists Andres Segovia and John Williams. Yuri comments that this latter has recorded everything. Later, his teacher Manuel Barrueco became a strong influence, his aesthetics, the clarity of his playing, his emphasis on the importance of technical perfection. Barrueco also conveyed to Yuri the idea that the music (melody) has to sing. Yuri feels that it is important to sing with your playing to find the best phrasing and colour. It took him a long time to understand, and he is still going through the process. He comments that you can always tell whether someone is singing with their playing, or just playing the notes.