Luca Villani certainly gives you plenty of Bach for your buck. This performance of all of Bach’s lute works, performed here on classical guitar, lasted well over two hours in the tranquil surrounds of Greyfriars Kirk.
Villani’s considerable talent is undeniable.
The performance was split into two parts. Villani played three of the four lute suites (BWV 995, 996, 997 and 1006a) before retiring for a brief interval. The second half was made up of the last of the suites and a group of other preludes and fugues. He spoke softly from his position at the head of the church to introduce each new work, having neglected to provide a programme. To those of us further from the front, much of what he said was inaudible. The music spoke for itself, but it would have been interesting to hear his elucidations on what we were about to hear.
Initially Villani’s playing was precise and clear, the music casting a meditative shroud over the audience. This was a marathon performance, though; even having taken a break, it was clear that Villani began to struggle as he crossed the two-hour line. Notes became muffled, speedy runs turned muddy and the entrancing power of Bach’s melodies dwindled. By the time Villani introduced his ill-judged encore – a piece of his own composition – much of the audience was ready to leave and duly did so.
Villani’s considerable talent is undeniable. It feels churlish to complain about the generosity of his performance but, crucially, he failed to leave his audience wanting more.