Bach on Mandolin from Ben Bosco

We’ve had a number of occasions on Bluegrass Today to note the appreciation for J.S. Bach among bluegrass and acoustic string musicians. Much of Bach’s music was composed for harpsichord, and is right at home on the banjo or mandolin, while his violin pieces have long been part of the education for up-and-coming fiddlers.

Why even the notorious Punch Brothers have been known to dabble in a bit of Bach.

Now comes news of British mandolinist Ben Bosco and his new album, Bach on Mandolin. Bosco performs 15 Bach compositions he has arranged for mandolin family instruments, along with guitar and bass. Most will be familiar to those with a cursory familiarity with the oeuvre, including Golberg Variations 1 and 2, Inventions 1 and 13, and movements from Concerto for Two Violins and the Violin Concerto in G Major.

Undoubtedly, however, the pièce de résistance is his reworking of the first movement from Bach’s memorable chamber work, Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 in G Major. Ben reproduced the arrangement from the CD for this clever multi-tracked video.

Bosco tells us that his musical inquiries began with rock music and his study of the electric bass before the mandolin called his name.

“Led Zeppelin captured my attention in terms of the mandolin (when I heard songs like Going to California and The Battle of Evermore I had to buy a mandolin and learn them!). As for Bach, I started playing his music on bass because I thought learning some classical music would help my technique. From there I immediately was attracted to his ‘mathematical, yet emotional’ music and spent a great deal of time listening to his vast catalog. Then I realized how great Bach’s music sounded on mandolin, and how popular it was on mandolin, and decided to record an album’s worth of his songs (just for some challenging fun really!).

I haven’t had any feedback from the classical world. I’m not classically-trained in any way and don’t consider myself to be anywhere near that standard. I just learn the notes and play them the best I can! My desired audience is definitely the mandolin community, as I’m aware Bach is much loved amongst us mandolin players.”

He also recounts how the mandolin has brought other types of music into his orbit.

“For the past several months, I think I’ve only ever played Bach (and the odd Vivaldi piece) on mandolin. But I also play folk, Celtic, bluegrass, and rock.

I recorded bass and some mandolin on my friend’s Joe Satriani-esque instrumental rock album last year (check his album out at He’s done a great instrumental cover of Madonna’s Oh Father, which includes my mandolin playing, which you can hear on YouTube.”

You can hear audio samples from Bach on Mandolin at Ben’s web site, and see more of his split-screen videos on YouTube.

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About the Author

John Lawless

John had served as primary author and editor for The Bluegrass Blog from its launch in 2006 until being folded into Bluegrass Today in September of 2011. He continues in that capacity here, managing a strong team of columnists and correspondents.