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Decca Phase 4
Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Italian Concerto in F major BWV971 (1735) [11:54]
Toccata and Fugue in D minor BWV 565 (trans. Busoni) [9:30]
Jesu bleibt meine Freude ('Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring')
from Cantata No.147 (trans. Hess) [3:42]
Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme BWV 645 (trans. Busoni) [4:41]
Fugue in B minor BWV 578 (trans. Busoni) [5.38]
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland BWV 659 (trans. Busoni) [5:58]
Chaconne from Partita No 2 for solo violin BWV 1004 (trans.
Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ BWV 639 (trans. Busoni)
Siciliano from Sonata no.2 for flute and keyboard BWV 1031
(trans. Busoni) [5:19]
rec. Moscow 1980
REGIS RRC1285 [68:17]
Regis has picked up on a selection of recordings made by
Tatiana Nikolayeva in Moscow in 1990 and, duly repackaged,
they appear here. They comprise Busoni transcriptions of
Chorale Preludes, the canonic Hess-Jesu arrangement, the
Italian Concerto and the Busoni-Chaconne transcription as
well as a couple of other items principally once again Bach-Busoni.
There are two Nikolayevas here. One takes the Italian Concerto
at a good, forward moving tempo – faster than Angela Hewitt’s
slightly earlier DG recording for instance, but which is
thicker in texture and touch than the Canadian’s performance.
The other Nikolayeva takes the Chorale Preludes at a tempo
verging on the marmoreal, so weighty, romanticised and entombed
in gloom that one wonders if she’ll ever reach the end. She
does. She seems explicitly to contrast the Bach of the Italian
Concerto with the other Bach; her view of the concerto is – for
me at least - unexpectedly linear and though her touch is
sonorous and rounded she is at pains not to allow the music
to become bogged down. The result is an enjoyable reading,
not as light in matters of articulation as others perhaps,
but traditionally successful.
The massive organ sonorities of the Toccata and Fugue are
relieved by some delicate phrasing and by dynamic contrasts
on repeated phrases. The voicings of the Bach-Busoni Fugue
in B minor are clearly, not obsessively delineated, the whole
performance being richly and ripely romantic in orientation.
The Chaconne is nothing like, say, Michelangeli’s. Slow,
powerful, but rejecting artifice or manufactured excitements Nikolayeva
builds her way inexorably through the monumentality of the
structure; chording is lavish and powerful, though occasionally
structural elements can become occluded in her performance.
This is perhaps more explicit in the Siciliano which feels
heavy and can sag.
Hess’s Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring arrangement is measured, moving and solemn, though
it slows too markedly – the noble, spiritual aspirations
are at odds with the music’s life force; hear Hess herself
in her first 78 recording of this or Lipatti to see how these
two things can be successfully reconciled without sacrificing
momentum. This is true for all the Chorale Preludes – a kind
of noble, spiritual stasis descends. I suppose one either
accepts it as a corollary of her playing late in her career
or rejects it as unduly or insupportably slow.
That being the case this selection will either enthral with
its depth of expression or disappoint in its heaviness. Theoretically
it could do both.
Gerard Hoffnung CDs
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