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CD: MDT AmazonUK

Transcriptions for two pianos
Complete contents list at end of review
GrauSchumacher Piano Duo (Andreas Grau and Götz Schumacher)
rec. 2-5 December 2008, Radio Studio, SWR, Stuttgart, Germany
NEOS 20903 [65:54]

Experience Classicsonline

Neos prides itself in releasing a wealth of interesting repertoire. I have especially enjoyed recordings in their Mieczyslaw Weinberg series, the Manfred Trojahn string quartets by the Henschel Quartet and Helmut Lachenmann's string quartets from the Stadler Quartet.
I have been eagerly awaiting the release of the present disc. I certainly have not been disappointed as the marvellous performances have more than lived up to my expectations.

For those who are not familiar with the art of the transcription. Perhaps a short explanation will prove helpful. Before gramophone records, radio broadcasts and miniature scores were available save for attending an actual performance, music-lovers only had access to orchestral and operatic scores in pared down arrangements principally for the piano for performance in the drawing room or salon. Sometimes known as piano reductions Liszt was the undisputed master of the art making numerous arrangements of songs, operas and symphonies. He mainly championed the music of those contemporaries that were in vogue or whom he felt deserved attention. Transcriptions and arrangements, the lifeblood of many virtuoso performers in Liszt’s day, were also prepared for solo instruments other than the piano such as the violin and cello. Although providing no financial profit to the original composer transcriptions served to assist the dissemination of their scores to a wider audience. Liszt was probably the best known transcriber and amongst others Leopold Stokowski was famous for transcribing mainly two-hundred smaller forms for large orchestral forces. A substantial number of these were transcriptions of J. S. Bach’s keyboard works.
Here the GrauSchumacher perform eight transcriptions, seven of which are for two pianos with the remaining Ravel score is for one piano four hands.
The disc opens with a short and attractive transcription by renowned pianist Dame Myra Hess. It is of J.S. Bach’s Jesus bleibet meine Freude (Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring) the chorale prelude from Cantata BVW 147 Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben (Heart and Mouth and Deed and Life). Hess also transcribed it for single piano and for piano four hands. A favourite in performance the scores would have been used by Hess in concert sometimes playing piano duo often with her friend Irene Scharrer. Debussy’s perennially popular Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, inspired by the poem by Stéphane Mallarmé is sensitively presented in the composer’s own transcription. The Introduction and Rondo capriccioso for violin and orchestra that Saint-Saëns wrote for Pablo de Sarasate is presented in Debussy’s transcription. It was that inveterate transcriber Ferruccio Busoni who prepared the overture to Mozart’s enchanting opera The Magic Flute. The Prelude from Wagner’s Tristan and Isolde was transcribed by Max Reger who was another enthusiastic user of the form. Victor Babin is responsible for versions of both Rachmaninov’s Vocalise and Tchaikovsky’s Waltz from his ballet Swan Lake. For many years Babin formed a well known piano duo with Vitya Vronsky. These transcriptions would no doubt have served them well. Probably the most unlikely transcription is that completed by Ravel for piano four hands of his own Boléro. This single movement showpiece might at first sight seem unsuitable for such reduction with the loss of significant orchestral colour being a major factor. Yet surprisingly it works marvellously well.
Lithe and fresh in the Saint-Saëns, tender in the Rachmaninov and resilient and expressive in the Wagner, the duo provide a compelling case for this collection. The performances are clearly articulated, rich in striking dynamic contrast, flowing and full of character. Recorded in the Studio of SWR Stuttgart I loved the crystal clear and well balanced sound.
Michael Cookson

Complete contents list

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Jesus bleibet meine Freude (Chorale from Cantata 147) [3:18]
Transcription for two pianos by Myra Hess
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune [8:31]
Transcription for two pianos by the composer
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Introduction and Rondo capriccioso, op. 28 [9:08]
Transcription for two pianos by Claude Debussy
Wolfgang Amadeus MOZART (1756-1791)
Overture to opera The Magic Flute [6:48]
Transcription for two pianos by Ferruccio Busoni
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Prelude from music-drama Tristan and Isolde [8:45]
Transcription for two pianos by Max Reger
Sergey RACHMANINOV (1873-1943)
Vocalise, op. 34, no. 14 [6:29]
Transcription for two pianos by Victor Babin
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-1893)
Waltz from the ballet Swan Lake [8:06]
Transcription for two pianos by Victor Babin
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1935)
Boléro [14:42]
Transcription for piano four hands by the composer











































































































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