John Bullard is a banjoist that’s made a name for himself specializing in classical music. While his other releases feature works by composers such as Bach and Handel, Bullard commissioned composer Adam Larrabee to write twenty four classical preludes for this project. John Bullard Plays 24 Preludes for Solo Banjo Volume 1 features pieces inspired by Chopin and Shostakovich among others. The preludes are separated into two books.
Book 1 contains the first six preludes. All the pieces vary in both key and length. No. 1 C Major-Undulating gets the recording off to a nice start while No. II A Minor-Presto is a short, yet gripping track. No. III D Major contains four different variations, all of which are very compelling. No. V E Major-Jig is one of the liveliest preludes contained within this book.
Book 2 is where things get really interesting. No. VII F Sharp Major-Barcarolle has a really haunting quality to it. This track really shows the capability of the space John was using to record this project, Hebron Presbyterian Church in Manakin Sabot, VA. There’s a natural reverb that I’m not sure a conventional recording studio could even come close to capturing.
No. VII E Flat Minor strays somewhat from the classical arena, but in a good way. The track starts off with ’80s rock groove and then leads into Homage to Ric Ocasek. The rhythmic feel of this piece is its strong point.
The other four pieces in Book 2 go in varying directions. No. IX A Flat Major-Cakewalk is somewhat of a whimsical piece while No. X F Minor-Passacaglia has more of a somber feel. No. XI B-Flat Major-Impromptu and the final track No. XII G Minor-Waltz could both be considered the most straightforward preludes on this project.
24 Preludes for Solo Banjo Volume 1 shows how John Bullard has continually broadened the possibilities for the banjo’s use in classical music. It’s also evidence of the great collaborative spirit between Bullard and Adam Larrabee, one that will surely continue with volume two of this distinctive project.