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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Metamorphosis
Prelude and Fugue in A, BWV536 (transcr. Walter Braunfels) [7:48]
Chorale Prelude, 'Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland', BWV661 (transcr. Igor Iljin) [2:59]
Fugue in G minor, BWV578 (transcr. Arthur Briskier) [4:14]
Christmas Oratorio, BWV248 - Pastoralsymphonie (transcr. Clarence Lucas) [5:33]
Chorale Prelude, 'Herr Christ, der ein'ge Gottessohn', BWV601 (transcr. Didenko) [2:14]
[4:04]
Chorale Prelude, 'O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde gross', BWV622 (transcr. Carl Tausig) [6:47]
Chorale Prelude, 'Ach bleib bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ', BWV649 (transcr. Vaughan Williams) [1:34]
Flute Sonata in E flat, BWV1031 - Siciliana (transcr. Isidore Philipp) [3:46]
Chorale Prelude, 'Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten', BWV642 (transcr. Andrei Goncharov) [1:53]
Chorale Prelude, 'Ein Feste Burg ist unser Gott', BWV720 (transcr. William Murdoch) [4:30]
Chorale Prelude, 'Ach wie nichtig, ach wie flüchtig', BWV644 (transcr. Igor Iljin) [1:32]
A Musical Offering, BWV1079 - Ricercar a 6 (transcr. Malheiro Prado) [8:43]
Angelika Nebel (piano)
rec. 2012. DDD
HÄNSSLER CLASSIC 98.004 [55:48]

In his booklet notes Jens Markowsky states, quite rightly, that "Numerous composers have taken on the immense challenge of arranging the complexity of Johann Sebastian Bach's music into a new and genuine form". What he does not explain is why so many feel compelled to even try. It is one thing to play Bach's keyboard music on a modern piano - there are many recordings of this kind whose technical prowess cannot be gainsaid, regardless of any views on the propriety of such historical inauthenticity - but another altogether to take pieces not originally conceived by Bach for (solo) keyboard, let alone grand piano, and arrange them into a "new and genuine form". "Genuine", how?
 
Such is the subject matter, however, of German pianist Angelika Nebel's recital. Those prepared to give it a chance will encounter a selection of lesser-known transcriptions from the last hundred and fifty years, with a core of chronologically arranged chorale preludes (Advent to Easter) peppered with odds and ends.
 
The listener is likely to be struck by two things. First, how well these arrangements transfer - a testimony to the flexibility and universality of Bach's music but also to the skill of the musicians who made them. Second, how well Nebel plays them - the ahistorical but beautifully expressive 'O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde gross' being a case in point. Not even the most adamantine of purists can fail to be struck by the poetic beauty or elegant execution of Nebel's programme, which ends in powerful style with the astonishing six-part fugue from A Musical Offering, given an almost orchestral makeover by Malheiro Prado. This is a disc for everyone whose soul needs an uplift, and a counterbalance to humanity's capacity for ugliness and mindlessness.
 
Sound quality is very good. The booklet is slim, but the German-English notes give a detailed description of every piece, with a brief musical analysis of each transcription in straightforward language. At one point Markowsky comments that "Arthur Schanz has aptly remarked that this arrangement reveals a new Bach", which is frankly guff, but in no way alters the fact that, short running time aside, this is a very impressive release.
 
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