Decca's Kaori Muraji Plays Bach doesn't make any pretensions toward representing the music of Johann Sebastian Bach in his historical element as has become commonplace. The orchestra used to accompany star guitarist Kaori Muraji in transcriptions of two Bach harpsichord concertos and the Air on a G String (to utilize this movement's popular title), the so-called Leipzig Bach Collegium, is a typical chamber orchestra made up of modern instruments, played in a modern way; sometimes the string basses even employ pizzicato effects, a device alien to Bach in his known orchestral scores. Likewise the part-writing in the orchestral accompaniments have been tweaked, particularly in the Air on a G String where figures in the solo part interact in a dialogue with similar gestures in the orchestra; a feature that will certainly cause Bach purists in the audience to say, "What the hell?" To get to first base with Kaori Muraji Plays Bach one will need to be able to accept the long-held notion that Bach can just about survive any treatment one can put him through or to simply not to care about the matter. Muraji, as is her wont, plays just as well here as she does on her other discs, and the solo pieces -- "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" (which sounds a little like it is overdubbed) the D minor Violin Partita and, as a bonus track, the Minuets BWV Anh. 114-115 once attributed to Bach and now known as the work of Christian Pezold are the highlights of the disc. In the orchestrally accompanied tracks Muraji is often a little buried in the mix and the tone of the string group is a little heavy, sounding a little like the "Baroque orchestras" common to recordings made in the 1950s and '60s. It's not too much of a distraction, though, and the reading of the oft-transcribed "Siciliano" in the E major harpsichord concerto is genuinely lovely.
The bottom line with Decca's Kaori Muraji Plays Bach is that the attraction is mainly Kaori Muraji herself and not so much Bach, whose music has been transformed here to suit her talents. For her part, Muraji delivers, though this release is not as enthralling as her earlier Transformation album and could have used a mix that favors her sound more directly, especially given the way the Bach material is handled. Converts to Muraji should regard it as a successful entry into her canon; those heavy into Bach on his own terms, however, will most likely find Decca's Kaori Muraji Plays Bach considerably less enjoyable.