Thursday, 1 February 2018

CD Review (The Straits Times, February 2018)

Prima Facie  CD061 / *****

When pianophiles talk about hyphenated Bach, they are referring to Johann Sebastian Bach's music in arrangements or transcriptions specifically for the piano by later composers. Thus Bach-Busoni is not a person, but describes the authorship of Bach's music as transcribed by the Italian piano virtuoso and scholar Ferruccio Busoni (1866-1924).

This excellent album of “Tributes and Transcriptions” celebrates the cult of Bach, the most famous transcription being Busoni's take on the Chaconne in D minor, an elaborately dressed-up gothic edifice which has occasionally overshadowed the original for solo violin. Rachmaninov's transcription of three movements – Prelude, Gavotte and Gigue – from Violin Partita No.3 is so romanticised that the original sounds strangely quaint.

The four letters that make up the surname Bach (B flat-A-C-B natural) has a life of its own in the  Fantasia And Fugue On B-A-C-H by Franz Liszt, a show of imperious pianism which is mirrored in even more monumental Variations On Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen, also by Liszt. 

In between are Busoni's lovely chorale prelude transcriptions, miniatures by comparison. Scottish pianist Kenneth Hamilton's authoritative but persuasive playing is accompanied by his own insightful and witty programme notes which make this a complete package one would regularly return to.   

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