Aureole etc.

Golden Age singers

Nimbus on-line

Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Piano Transcriptions
Three Pieces from the Partita No. 3 for Unaccompanied Violin, BWV 1006
Transcribed and played by Sergei Rachmaninov
Aria (Largo) from Concerto in F minor, BWV 1056
Transcribed and played by Alfred Cortot.
Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 565
Transcribed by Carl Tausig, adapted by Emanuel Moór, played by Winifred Christie
'Sheep may Safely Graze' (Birthday Cantata), BWV 208
Transcribed by Mary Howe, played by Ethel Bartlett and Rae Robertson.
Fugue in G minor from the Little Organ Book, BWV 578
Transcribed and played by Olga Samaroff
'Jesus Christus, Gottes Sohn', from Easter Cantata No. 4, BWV 4
Transcribed by Walter Rummel, played by George Copeland.
'Sanctify us by Thy Goodness', Chorale from Cantata No. 22, BWV 22
Transcribed and played by Harriet Cohen.
'Fervent is my Longing', Organ Chorale Prelude, BWV 727.
Transcribed and played by Alexander Kelberine.
'Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring' from Cantata No.147
Transcribed by Myra Hess, played by Walter Gieseking.
Pastorale, from Weihnachts-Oratorium (Christmas Oratorio), BWV 248
Transcribed by Clarence Lucas, played by Wilhelm Backhaus.
Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 643
Transcribed by Franz Liszt, played Byron Janis
Toccata in C major (Prelude, Intermezzo and Fugue), BWV 564
Transcribed by Ferruccio Busoni, played by Artur Rubinstein
recorded 1925-47
NAXOS 8.110658 [67.39]


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The raison d’être for the disc is to select twelve pianists from amongst the very many who recorded Bach Transcriptions on the piano in the 78 era. We thus range in terms of recording date from a British pianist much esteemed by collectors of 78s, Winifred Christie, and her Moór Duplex-Coupler piano circa 1925 to the young Byron Janis in 1947. Additionally twelve different transcribers are included (sometimes the performer – such as Rachmaninov, Cortot and Harriet Cohen - is also transcriber). It will be noted that some of these recordings are making their first appearance on CD as well. All this has been so attractively done that it seems churlish to wonder whether there is a ready audience for so disparate a collection. Still, that thought aside – and the thought that a number of these transcription recordings were themselves "fill-ups" for longer works – there is still a great deal to enjoy here; mainly this will centre around those pianists generally now unfamiliar.

I don’t know how Winifred Christie (1882-1965) would have reacted to being called Ms Winifred Christie by sleeve note writers Marina and Victor Ledin – probably with bafflement. I’d hope with suave belligerence. She championed the Bechstein Duplex-Coupler Piano (a two-manual affair an octave apart. The "coupler" device overcame spread chords), which was invented by composer Emanuel Moór, because she married him in 1923 – a fact the notes don’t tell us. She was also a composer and recorded selectively for Aeolian Vocalion and Winner, premiered Edgar Bainton’s Concerto-Fantasia and was one of Britain’s leading pianists. I hope this splendid recording of the Moór adapted Bach-Tausig Toccata and Fugue will revive her memory. Bostonian George Copeland (1882-1971) plays a transcription by another elite pianist, Walter Rummel, whose Bach playing I admire enormously. Copland, like Christie, moved in Harold Bauer’s orbit but additionally studied with the legendary Teresa Carreño. He was a Debussy proselytizer, giving many American premieres but became overshadowed by other lesser pianists and never recorded as widely as his talents merited. His Jesus Christus, Gottes Sohn is moving and magnificent. Harriet Cohen was a Matthay student; her early Columbia part complete recording of the Well Tempered Clavier was shared with the older pianist Evlyn Howard Jones, friend of Delius, whose portion was significantly more impressive than hers. She plays her own transcription of the Chorale from Cantata no 22 with straightforward intelligence. I’m afraid I found Alexander Kelberine rather strait-laced; the tragically short-lived Russian (1903-40) studied with two giants, Busoni and Siloti, and also with the peripatetic Leo Sirota. He committed suicide after suffering a long period of acute depression. The Myra Hess transcription is given to Walter Gieseking, inferior to Lipatti’s recording of it, but full of clarity if not exactly dripping with sentiment. Janis’ youthful boldness – he was nineteen – is if anything topped by Rubinstein’s incandescence and leonine drama in the Toccata in C major in the Busoni transcription. All however are smitten by the greatest pianist here, Rachmaninov, who opens proceedings with three movements from the third Violin Partita in his own memorable transcription. Not much time to mention Cortot’s affectingly beautiful Aria – noisy copy though, I’m sure a better one could have been found – and the globe trotting Bartlett and Robertson in the Mary Howe transcription of Sheep May Safely Graze, to use the familiar Anglicism. Olga Samaroff (1882-1948) is not afraid to dig into her Fugue transcription – impressive – and Backhaus is dependable in the Pastorale from the Christmas Oratorio.

I particularly commend this disc for its retrieval function or in Stevie Smith’s words "the lost dawn recover." This is not a back-handed compliment, I hope, but is on the contrary meant to draw attention to those pianists upon whom I have concentrated in this review. Their sensitivity and depth fully deserve to live once again in such glorious company.

Jonathan Woolf

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