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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Bach Transcribed for Piano
Full track-listing below
Antony Gray (piano)
rec. 1998 (Goossens), 2003-04, Eugene Goossens Hall of the ABC’s Ultimo Centre, Sydney and 2012, St. Augustine’s Church, Kilburn, London
ABC 476 5171 [3 CDs: 68:58 + 67:09 + 71:41]

Antony Gray’s Bach piano transcription concept is spread across three discs. The first is largely given over to British composers whilst the second explores Franco-German works. The last starts with the rather more off-the-beaten track Martucci and Whittaker, but finishes with contemporary settings by a raft of composers.
 
The core of the first disc is music compiled for A Bach Book for Harriet Cohen. Recorded by Gray in 2003 (one piece in 1998); this actually predates Jonathan Plowright’s memorable recording for Hyperion [CDA 67767] by several years. The differences between the two are instructive with Gray sometimes slower and grander, and sometimes Plowright more measured. I found it unpredictable which way each would approach a given transcription. Gray certainly takes Bax’s Fantasia at a more tempered tempo but Plowright is more limpid and more warmly recorded (as he is throughout) in the Howells setting. Gray’s Bridge setting sounds a touch blunt after Plowright’s more malleable performance. Certainly the masterpiece here is Vaughan Williams’ transcription of Ach, bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ where Gray has to cede to Plowright’s magnificently expressive and communing traversal. This first disc also includes some self-adaptations by Bach, a capricious rendering by Cyril Scott of Mein gläubiges Herze as well as Harriet Cohen transcriptions. Gray’s performance of Harriet Cohen’s Ertödt’ uns durch dein’ Güte transcription is very trim and no-nonsense, not least after listening to Cohen’s own performance.
 
In the second disc the Saint-Saens transcriptions run into competition, once more, against a Hyperion disc of Bach transcriptions played by Nadejda Vlaeva [CDA67873]. Even when Gray is slower, as he is in the Adagio from Cantata BWV3, he is not accorded so warm a recording as she - which tends to make him sound blunter than he actually is. The Wilhelm Kempff transcriptions offer interest, not least when measured against the transcriber’s own warmer performances [DG Eloquence 457 624-2]. Once more Gray is a cooler customer, tonally speaking, though not always slower. I don’t go much for his awkward rubati in Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ not do I favour his tonal resources. In the Largo from the Keyboard Concerto in F minor Gray’s playing is much dryer and less overtly pianistic, pitched half way as it is between a harpsichord and a piano. For the remainder of this disc Gray explores, to good effect, the work of Tausig (stern), Alkan - quite unusual, although brief - and Harold Bauer’s rather thickly voiced transcriptions of movements from the Cello Suites. Unfortunately Bauer never recorded them. Reger is heard thunderously in the Toccata and Fugue in D minor.
 
The third disc introduces Martucci’s very slow Orchestral Suite movement transcriptions, replete with broken chords and Old School approach. The refined and limpid WG Whittaker transcriptions are not refugees from Cohen’s Bach Book but have an independence all their own. Tivadar Szánto’s Prelude and Fugue in G minor is a welcome discovery. And then, to the end, is the contemporary section, leading with Gray’s own transcription of Letzte Stunde, brich herein. Judith Weir locates some droll humour in her work, whilst Earl Wild offers mordant dissonances in his Hommage à Poulenc via a transcription of the Sarabande from the Keyboard Partita No.1. François Sarhan’s work sounds unsettled, if not necessarily unsettling, whilst Michael Blake breaks into a pop cum show tune in Oh Clare, a bizarre reworking of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring. There’s a late night Blues feel to Frank Millward’s opus and an extended extemporisation on Sleepers Wake, the work of Andrew Schultz. Gabriel Jackson ends the recital with celebratory bells in the carillon In Dulci Jubilo.
 
This set represents a valuable compendium of Bach transcriptions, past and present, in performances that are largely authoritative, but sometimes just a little detached.
 
Jonathan Woolf
 
 
Track-listing 
CD 1
GRANVILLE BANTOCK 1868-1946
1 ‘Wachet auf’ - Chorus from Cantata BWV140 [4:28]
RALPH VAUGHAN WILLIAMS 1872-1958
‘Ach, bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ’
2 Chorale [1:08]
3 Chorale Prelude, BWV649 [3:30]
CONSTANT LAMBERT 1905-1951
4 ‘Der Tag, der ist so freudenreich’ - Chorale Prelude, BWV605 [1:47]
EUGENE GOOSSENS 1893-1962
5 Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F major, BWV1047: II. Andante [4:08]
ARNOLD BAX 1883-1953
6 Fantasia, BWV572 [5:38]
JOHN IRELAND 1879-1962
7 ‘Meine Seele erhebt den Herren’ - Chorale Prelude, BWV648 [1:41]
HERBERT HOWELLS 1892-1983
8 ‘O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß’ - Chorale Prelude, BWV622 [4;27]
LORD BERNERS 1883-1950
9 In dulci jubilo, BWV729 [1:56]
WILLIAM GILLIES WHITTAKER 1876-1944
10 ‘Wir glauben all’ in einem Gott, Vater’ - Chorale Prelude, BWV740 [4:33]
ARTHUR BLISS 1891-1975
11 ‘Das alte Jahr vergangen ist’ - Chorale Prelude, BWV614 [2:59]
FRANK BRIDGE 1879-1941
12 ‘Komm, süsser Tod’ - Aria, BWV478 [2:52]
WILLIAM WALTON 1902-1983
13 ‘Herzlich tut mich verlangen’ - Chorale Prelude, BWV727 [1:58]
[1]-[13] from A Bach Book for Harriet Cohen
JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH 1685-1750
14 Partita in E major, BWV1006a (Violin Partita No. 3 in E major, BWV1006): III. Gavotte en Rondeau [2:52]
15 Sonata in D minor, BWV964 (Violin Sonata No. 2 in A minor, BWV1003): III. Andante [4:45]
OTTO SCHRÖDER
16 Cantata BWV106 (Actus Tragicus): Sonatina [2:22]
CYRIL SCOTT 1879-1970
17 ‘Mein gläubiges Herze’ - Aria from Cantata BWV68 ‘Also hat Gott die Welt geliebt’ [2:31]
HARRIET COHEN 1895-1967
18 ‘Ertödt’ uns durch dein’ Güte’ - Chorale from Cantata BWV22 ‘Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe’ [2:04]
19 ‘Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier’ - Chorale Prelude, BWV731 [2:50]
Cantata BWV155 ‘Mein Gott, wie lang, ach lange?’
20 III. ‘So sei, o Seele, sei zufrieden’ - Recitative [1:42]
21 IV. ‘Wirf, mein Herze, wirf dich noch’ - Aria [3:06]
PERCY ALDRIDGE GRAINGER 1882-1961
22 Blithe Bells (Cantata BWV208 ‘Was mir behagt, ist nur die muntre Jagd’) [4:42]
 
CD 2
CAMILLE SAINT-SAËNS 1835-1921
1 Cantata BWV29 ‘Wir danken dir, Gott, wir danken dir’: Sinfonia [4:01]
2 Adagio (arranged from Cantata BWV3 ‘Ach Gott, wie manches Herzeleid’ - Opening Chorus and Recitative) [5:19]
3 Presto (Cantata BWV35 ‘Geist und Seele wird verwirret’, Part II - Sinfonia) [3:34]
WILHELM KEMPFF 1895-1991
4 Keyboard Concerto in F minor, BWV1056: II. Largo [3:48]
5 ‘Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ’ - Chorale Prelude, BWV639 ‘Es ist gewißlich an der Zeit’ [2:25]
6 Chorale, BWV307 [0:55]
7 Chorale Prelude, BWV734 [1:31]
8 ‘Wohl mir, daß ich Jesum habe’ / ‘Jesus bleibet meine Freude’ - Chorale from Cantata BWV147 ‘Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben’ [2:57]
CARL TAUSIG 1841-1871
9 ‘Wir glauben all’ an einen Gott, Schöpfer’ - Chorale Prelude, BWV680 [2:24]
ANONYMOUS, 19th century
10 Cantata BWV182 ‘Himmelskönig, sei willkommen’: Sonata (Grave. Adagio) [2:15]
11 Cantata BWV42 ‘Am Abend aber desselbigen Sabbats’: Sinfonia [7:08]
CHARLES-VALENTIN ALKAN 1813-1888
12 Flute Sonata in E-flat major, BWV1031: II. Siciliano [1:52]
HAROLD BAUER 1873-1951
13 Cello Suite No. 6, BWV1012: V. Gavotte I & II [3:57]
14 Cello Suite No. 1, BWV1007: V. Minuetto I & II [4:11]
FERRUCCIO BUSONI 1866-1924
15 Toccata in C major, BWV564: II. Adagio (‘Intermezzo’) [4:09]
16 ‘Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland’ - Chorale Prelude, BWV659 [4:52]
MAX REGER 1873-1916
Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV565
17 Toccata [3:26]
18 Fugue [6;51]
 
CD 3
GIUSEPPE MARTUCCI 1856-1909
1 Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D major, BWV1068: II. Air [6:11]
2 Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor, BWV1067: VI. Menuet [1:26]
3 Orchestral Suite No. 2 in B minor, BWV1067: VII. Badinerie [1:49]
WILLIAM GILLIES WHITTAKER 1876-1944
Pastorella, BWV590
4 I. ‘Allegretto e tranquillo’ [2:16]
5 II. ‘Moderato’ [4:11]
6 III. ‘Andante cantabile e espressivo’ [2:48]
7 IV. ‘Allegro’ [3:46]
TIVADAR SZÁNTÓ 1876-1953
Prelude and Fugue in G minor, BWV535
8 I. Prelude (‘Adagio e religioso’) [3:45]
9 II. Fugue (‘Andante ma non troppo’) [5;26]
ANTONY GRAY
10 ‘Letzte Stunde, brich herein’ - Aria from Cantata BWV31 ‘Der Himmel lacht, die Erde jubilieret’ [5:12]
JUDITH WEIR b.1954
11 Roll off the Ragged Rocks of Sin (arranged from the aria ‘Wer bist du? Frage dein Gewissen, from Cantata BWV132 ‘Bereitet die Wege, bereitet die Bahn’) [3:49]
EARL WILD 1915-2010
12 Hommage à Poulenc (arranged from Keyboard Partita No. 1 in B-flat major, BWV825: IV. Sarabande) [3:54]
FRANÇOIS SARHAN b.1972
Prelude and Fugue in C major, BWV846 13
13. Prelude [1:45]
14 Fugue [0:58]
MICHAEL BLAKE b.1951
15 BWV Fragments [0:58]
16 Oh Clare (arranged from ‘Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring’ - Chorale from Cantata BWV147 ‘Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben’, as arranged by Myra Hess) [3:32]
MICHAEL FINNISSY b.1946
17 Joh. Seb. Bach [3:33]
FRANK MILLWARD
18 Crucifixion Blues (arranged from Mass in B minor, BWV232: ‘Crucifixus’) [3;32]
ANDREW TOOVEY b.1962
19 Cantus Firmus [1:49]
SALLY MAYS
20 ‘O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden’ - Chorale from St Matthew Passion, BWV244 [3:33]
ANDREW SCHULTZ b.1960
21 Sleepers Wake - Karalananga - from Journey to Horseshoe Bend [5:31]
GABRIEL JACKSON b.1962
22 Carillon: In Dulci Jubilo [1:19]



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