Bach to Black: Suites for Piano
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Pianist Rochelle Sennet juxtaposes Bach's English Suites with suites for piano by African-American composers.

Pianist Rochelle Sennet says that "Bach to Black represents my strong interest in performing repertoire by Black composers in combination with works of J.S. Bach. The suites included on this recording represent beauty, excellence, contrast, celebration of dance style, and dialogue." She has paired the English Suites of Bach with works by Black composers based on similarities in key, mode, rhythmic energy, and occasional disruption of tonal expectations. Dr. Rochelle Sennet has established herself as a well-known performer, teacher, and scholar. A graduate of the San Francisco Conservatory, the University of Michigan, and Texas Christian University, she received her DMA from the University of Illinois. She has been a prize winner in numerous competitions including the Kingsville International Piano competition, and the US Open Music Piano Concerto competition, among other. She is on the faculty at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. This is her fourth recording for Albany Records.
Contents:
Johann Sebastian Bach, composer
English Suite No. 5 in E Minor, BWV 810
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, composer
Four Characteristic Waltzes, Op. 22
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

Johann Sebastian Bach, composer
English Suite No. 3 in G Minor, BWV 808
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

Jeffrey Mumford, composer
four dances for Boris
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

Johann Sebastian Bach, composer
English Suite No. 6 in D Minor, BWV 811
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

R. Nathaniel Dett, composer
In the Bottoms
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

Johann Sebastian Bach, composer
English Suite No. 2 in A Minor, BWV 807
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

H. Leslie Adams, composer
Contrasts
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

Johann Sebastian Bach, composer
English Suite No. 1 in A Major, BWV 806
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, composer
African Suite, Op. 35
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

Johann Sebastian Bach, composer
English Suite No. 4 in F Major, BWV 809
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

Frederick Tillis, composer
Three Movements for Piano
Rochelle Sennet (piano)

Review:
“…I find Sennet at her best in the Bach and in the more gestural/Modernist of the works by the Black composers on the recital. Aside from the precision and clarity that are a must for Bach performance, Sennet also uses subtle changes in articulation and clever placement of terrace dynamics as expressive tools. I also find her judicious use of embellishments on repeated sections to be very welcome…Sennet’s playing of the Bach English Suites is intelligent and attractive—and her programming offers much more than yet another recording of the Suites. On a piece like Jeffrey Mumford’s four dances for Boris, in which sonorities and textures are at the forefront, Sennet is at her very best…My favorite of the modern pieces is H. Leslie Adams’s Contrasts, composed in the late 1950s. These 10 miniatures are fully formed emotional studies, often developing one germinal idea…This is a lovely recital. It is also an important program. I hope it will receive widespread attention.” (Fanfare)

"These suites are a comprehensive set of Bach’s complete English Suites, mixed with 6 suites by Black composers. The title is an evocation of Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black, and celebrates the works of Black composers. It acknowledges the influence of the European western music tradition while celebrating the varied techniques in this repertoire in the 20th Century. Sennet does an excellent job with these works. Her Bach is metrically sound and fully in control, with varied articulations and styles. Her playing is full of clarity. British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s 4 Characteristic Waltzes, arranged for piano, are charming and played exquisitely, full of rubato and lovely harmonic colors. American composer Jeffrey Mumford’s Four Dances for Boris (2004) has a discordant nature and moves swiftly. It has an interesting interplay between chords in some very fast passages. Canadian composer Robert Nathaniel Dett’s In the Bottoms is a haunting set of pieces, composed in the early 1900s using Black folk idioms. `Honey’ particularly stands out with its playful and whimsical sound. One of my favorite recent recordings." (American Record Guide)

"The pianist Rochelle Black interprets works from J.S. Bach and several black composers on this 3 disc release, where the varied selections possess similarities in key and rhythmic energy, and her incredible manipulation of the piano keeps the listener enthralled…An album with the purpose of stimulating conversation revolving around inclusion in the classical music scene, Sennet enlightens us with her timeless, flexible and stirring vision." (takeeffectreviews.com)

Gold Medal 2021 Global Music Awards