The Lute Society: Bach Solo Lute Discography

JS Bach Solo Lute Discography Version 3.1

by John Reeve

The discography lists all solo music by JS Bach recorded on instruments of the lute family. Versions for guitar, mandolin, keyboard etc. are excluded, as are arrangements for more than one instrument.

Version 3.0, February 2024, adds one new release, a version of BWV 1000 from Diego Cantalupi on his Weiss recording Bei Bach zu Hause, and one from 2018 that has only recently come to my notice. This is a complete recording of the lute works and the first violin sonata from Alberto Crugnola, Bach aufs Lautenwerk (which is not a keyboard recital despite the title). The notes have also been revised and expanded.

The list now stands at 139 albums from 89 artists, with 1560 individual movements.

The discography is not a list of individual releases, but rather gives just one version of each recorded movement. I have listed the latest and most readily available version of each piece, which means, for example, including CD reissues where available rather than original LPs. I have also listed dedicated recitals in preference to compilations. Sometimes the same piece has been issued more than once by a player, so I have removed duplicates by listening to the recordings, by checking track timings (allowing for small variations) or by validation of the dates of recording. I am confident that the few apparent duplicates in the list are in fact different recordings.

In addition to identifying the works that are included in each album I have tried to list the year of recording rather than release. This is especially important in the case of reissues, but in some cases I can only find the year of release, which may be significantly later. These are marked with an asterisk. I have also given information about the instrument used, where possible, including type (lute, Italian theorbo etc.), the number of courses and the configuration of the peg box (such as swan neck or bass rider). Where there is a question mark next to the type, number of courses or configuration it means that the entry is likely to be correct but is not conclusively verified. Where no information is available these entries are missing.

It would have been interesting to have given a comprehensive list of tunings and keys but this information is not generally available and cannot be deduced aurally because of different pitch standards, transposition and the use of non-standard tunings in some recordings.

No list like this is ever complete and it will be a living document with regular updates. New recordings are being released all the time and it is more than likely that I have missed some old recordings too. If you know of any, or can add to or correct any of the information, please let me know!

There are four linked PDF files:

Some of these files contain many columns, so you may need to zoom in to view the contents clearly.

Note on Numbering

Works are identified by BWV number and movement, e.g. BWV 995/1, but it is unfortunately not that simple! Three of the lute works have more than one BWV designation in the discography because of versions for other instruments. The G minor suite BWV 995 for lute has a counterpart in C minor for cello, BWV 1011, and the E major suite, BWV 1006a for lute, is a version of BWV 1006 for violin, also in E major. There are no consistent differences between the lute versions of these pieces regardless of which numbers players attach to them and so I have given the titles and BWV numbers in the Discography by Artist and Album as listed by the players. In general this numbering follows the context: 995 and 1006a for recitals of the lute works and 1011 and 1006 for collected transcriptions of the violin and cello works. For the Discography by Movement and the List of Works, I have merged BWV 995 and 1011 and BWV 1006 and 1006a to give a consolidated overview.

The situation is more complicated for BWV 1000 and its violin version, BWV 1001/2, as there are significant differences between the two. These two different versions of the fugue have led to some confusion. Some players have presented their own intabulations of the violin version as BWV 1000 and vice versa. I have checked all recorded versions and identified seven instances of the violin version being labelled as BWV 1000. These are marked with #. I quite understand that some find this version musically superior and closer to Bach, but it would help to identify it clearly. There are four cases of the opposite, with the lute version inserted into the violin sonata: one of these is labelled explicitly as BWV 1000 while the other three simply mention the lute version in the notes. These three are marked with +. For the Discography by Movement and the List of Works, I have listed BWV 1000 and 1001/2 separately based on the actual versions played, regardless of what the player has called them.

Finally, I have used the familiar designations of BWV 1006a and BWV 997 throughout rather than the latest BWV 1006.2 and BWV 997.2.