confounded any possible expectation that he might burn out. Thile has recorded straight bluegrass as well as progressive styles with his band Punch Brothers, including remote fusions such as a forty-minute suite of post-bop bluegrass songs chronicling the breakup of his marriage. The razzle-dazzle factor is immense--he was one of this year's MacArthur "genius grant" recipients--but he hasn't lost the common touch, either. And now, Bach. Thile has flirted with classical music in the past, but this time he's taking on one of its monuments.
The solo violin sonatas and partitas are among Bach's most fascinating works. They combine what was then extreme violin technique with, some say, especially deep examples of Bach's penchant for numerological arcana. Most of the individual movements demand that the violinist produce vertical sonorities or even full chords--not an easy thing on a violin--by dragging the bow across multiple strings at once, sometimes over long stretches of music. The level of overall virtuosity still challenges today's top violinists, and it doesn't translate easily to a mandolin, which produces chords readily.