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Transcendent Journey
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Cantata No.645 - Wachet auf, ruft uns die stimme, arranged Chuquisengo [4.55]
Cantata No.147 – Jesus bleibet meine freude, arranged Chuquisengo [3.14]
Toccata in C minor BWV911
John FOULDS (1880-1939)

Gandharva-music Op.49 (1915 revised 1926) [3.29]
April-England Op.48 No.1 (1926) [7.27]
George Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)

Chaconne in G major HWV 435 [11.09]
Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827) – Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Symphony No.7 – Allegretto (1811-12), arranged by Liszt S263d (1838) with a passage for four hands in multichannel technics [9.21]
John CORIGLIANO (b.1938)

Fantasia on an Ostinato (1985) [12.57]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)

Toccata in C major Op.7 (1833) [5.26]
Sergei PROKOFIEV (1891-1953)

Toccata in D minor Op.11 (1912) [4.29]
Juan José Chuquisengo (piano)
Recorded in Studio 2, Bavarian Radio, October-December 2003. Co-production with Bavarian Radio.
SONY CLASSICAL SK93829 [72.40]

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Produced in association with Bavarian Radio this Sony disc is a testament to the Peruvian pianist Juan José Chuquisengo’s musical inquisitiveness. A look at the head note will show the bewildering transcendence (to appropriate the word) of the programme. It starts with two canonic Bach Chorales, but not in the expected arrangements, adds two pieces by John Foulds, introduces us to the Allegretto of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony in the Liszt arrangement – but even here there’s a double twist – and throws in three successive Toccatas, one Fantasia and a Chaconne. It’s certainly not conventional programming and wouldn’t be in the recital hall either but then Chuquisengo seems not to be an ordinary musician with ordinary musical horizons. He spent a seven year period in private study whilst retaining contact with the conductor Celibidache in Munich, a period that has clarified his thoughts and ambitions and also repertoire. This is one of the results, an across the centuries, across the styles programme of almost abstract lineage.

The two Bach Chorales are in his own arrangements though neither differs in too many details from better-known ones. Admirers of the Jesu-Hess will note a few textual changes but in essence this is her arrangement in broad detail. It’s attractively done but curiously uninvolving. Wachet auf is rather slow with a deliberately subservient left hand whose incursive gestures are here circumscribed. Lovely playing but rather inert; indeed, one might say, promoting loveliness as an end in itself. I can see why he should have chosen John Foulds’ April-England, the Bachian elements of which, allied to its burgeoning melodic warmth, would have appealed. He certainly holds that tied bass figure and gets a much bigger recorded sound than that accorded Peter Jacobs on Altarus. It’s excellent that he should cast his net so wide as to discover Foulds; if I have a criticism it’s that he can make it sound a touch too portentous with the result that it emerges as rather less touching than it does with Jacobs. Gandharva-Music, hypnotic as ever, is taken at precisely the same tempo as Jacobs’ recording and is only let down by a somewhat over-clangourous recording.

The Beethoven-Liszt is spiced not only by virtue of his playing it at all (this is the reserve of such as Leslie Howard) but also because there’s a passage here "for four hands in multichannel technics" which I take to be overdubbing. He certainly sculpts an orchestral tone here, sometimes tempting hard hitting and strident fortes. Swimmy recording does sap Corigliano’s Fantasia on an ostinato, which reveals itself to have been based on the Beethoven movement. Bass light though the recording is, we can appreciate the dynamic extremes and the sense of control engendered; the glint, the scurry, the relapse into elliptical contemplation before a resolutory chord.

Virtuoso fireworks are here as well in the form of successive Toccatas. I suppose a pianist setting out his stall with those by Schumann and Prokofiev could fairly be said to be courting admiration of some kind – and in them he certainly impresses - but it’s rather more invigorating to hear his Handel and his Bach, both of which challenges he deals with adeptly and warmly.

Chuquisengo is clearly a questing musician, as this disc amply demonstrates. And in its exploration of the chaconne, the toccata and the incremental patterns of repetition and release he has constructed a unique programme that attests to his intellectual and expressive powers.

Jonathan Woolf


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