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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Bach Arrangements
1.Sinfonia in D major, arranged by Wilhelm Kempff [4'01] from Cantata No 29, BWV29
2.Siciliano in G minor, arranged by Wilhelm Kempff [3'54] from Flute Sonata in E flat, BWV1031
3.Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland BWV659, arranged by Wilhelm Kempff [5'43] from Leipzig Chorales (the 'Eighteen')
4.Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme BWV645, arranged by Wilhelm Kempff [4'18] from Schübler Chorales
5.Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ BWV639, arranged by Wilhelm Kempff [2'48] from Orgelbüchlein
6.Sheep may safely graze, arranged by Mary Howe [5'47] 'Schäfe können sicher weiden' from Cantata No 208, BWV208
7.Jesu, joy of man's desiring, arranged by Myra Hess [3'50] 'Jesu bleibet meine Freude' from Cantata No 147, BWV147
8.Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein BWV641, arranged by Angela Hewitt [2'29] from Orgelbüchlein
9.Das alte Jahr vergangen ist BWV614, arranged by Angela Hewitt [2'40] from Orgelbüchlein
10.In dulci jubilo BWV729, arranged by Lord Berners [2'01]
11.Herzlich tut mich verlangen BWV727, arranged by William Walton [2'36]
12.Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn BWV648, arranged by John Ireland [1'20] from Schübler Chorales
13.O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde gross BWV622, arranged by Herbert Howells [5'24] from Orgelbüchlein
14.Sanctify us by Thy goodness, arranged by Harriet Cohen [2'28] from Cantata No 22, BWV22
15.Die Seele ruht in Jesu Händen, arranged by Harold Bauer [5'29] from Cantata No 127, BWV127
16.Passacaglia in C minor BWV582, arranged by Eugen d'Albert [11'45]
17.Alle Menschen müssen sterben BWV643, arranged by Angela Hewitt [3'15] from Orgelbüchlein
Angela Hewitt (piano)
Rec: April 1999, Henry Wood Hall, London.
HYPERION CDA67309
[69.57]

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The latest release in Angela Hewitt's recording of Bach's keyboard music for piano, is very different from the other discs she has recorded. This disc comprises a set of transcriptions of Bach's music for other instruments - organ works, orchestral pieces, chorales from cantatas. Many composers have tried their hands at arranging various works by Bach. Bach himself did so as well, in many cases, altering his own compositions in the adaptation for other instruments.

One can easily criticize such an endeavor, saying (justly so) that these arrangements are not Bach's music, but the music of Bach and Kempff, or Bach and Busoni, or, even, Bach and Hewitt, for the pieces she arranged herself. But Hewitt gives an excellent explanation of her motivation for doing this: "Nowadays, at the beginning of the twenty-first century and after the huge early music revival and its preoccupation with 'authenticity', it is still possible to present such transcriptions and awaken interest in many a listener to a work previously unknown to them (or indeed shed a different light on music generally familiar). They will be cherished as long as performers, amateur or professional, want the challenge of playing something on an instrument for which it wasn't originally conceived (and, in the case of Bach and the piano, is very different from the instrument known to the composer) simply to say in their own way how beautiful, wondrous, or monumental a certain work may be, and to share their enthusiasm for it."

In any case, this disc contains a wide variety of works, much less homogeneous than Hewitt's other Bach recordings. This is, in fact, its strength, but also its weakness. It is more of a recital disc than her other recordings, each of which was (with one exception) a complete set of a specific series of works. Here we have chorale preludes for organ together with choral movements from cantatas; the well-known chorale prelude Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, with its familiar melody, sounds nothing at all like its organ version, yet fits well with this type of transcription. The long Passacaglia in C minor, originally for organ, works relatively well on the piano as well. While many of the nuances are very different from the powerful organ, the piano brings out different tones and gives this interesting work a new sound.

Yet, I cannot help but be disappointed by this disc. Overall, it is a hodgepodge of pieces that lack coherence. Not all the organ chorals work on the piano - the more sombre ones sound fine when played on the lower notes of the keyboard, but some of the more upbeat chorale preludes, such as Sanctify us by Thy goodness, lack depth.

Perhaps Angela Hewitt is running out of Bach - she has, indeed, recorded all of his keyboard music, with the exception of the Art of Fugue. She has decided to record this disc, it seems, to be able to have more Bach to play. While not in any way a poor disc, it sounds, to me, as the weakest recording in her series, partly because of the actual music, and partly because it does not all fit together well.

One cannot, however, be disappointed by Hewitt's recordings of Bach's music. This disc will please those who are true lovers of her wonderful technique. But, if you have not yet acquired her other Bach recordings, you would be better off heading for her wonderful Goldberg Variations, or her exquisite French Suites. One can only hope that she will soon record the Art of Fugue, culminating her excellent series of Bach recordings.


Kirk McElhearn




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