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Johann 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. Busoni) [16:54]
Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ BWV 639 (trans. Busoni) [4:33]
Siciliano from Sonata no.2 for flute and keyboard BWV 1031 (trans. Busoni) [5:19]
Tatiana Nikolayeva (piano)
rec. Moscow 1980
REGIS RRC1285 [68:17]
Experience Classicsonline

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.
Myra 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.
Jonathan Woolf



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