The catalogue tends
to groan under the weight of hyphenated
Bach and especially hyphenated Bach-Busoni
but this disc springs a big surprise.
It gives us Busoni’s reworking of The
Goldberg Variations. I’d never heard
it before and it proves to be of some
compelling interest. Busoni wrote it
in 1914, reducing the variations to
just twenty in number, jettisoning repeats,
creating it anew in purely pianistic
terms – a concert version in other words
replete with Busonian octave transpositions
and thunderous bass octaves. Free parts
replace written out ornaments and new
melody lines are created, the most astonishing
of which is the reappearance of the
Aria, which is profoundly altered.
There are now three
parts in Busoni’s structure and we can
hear how a composer-pianist sets about
creating an entity from his material,
ending the First Part for example with
an Andante con grazia and starting
the Second Part with a reworking that
is more Busoni than Bach. His so-called
Allegretto piacevole sounds very pleasing
here with its bell-like tone but the
Non Allegro movement just before the
end of Part Two sounds frankly absurd.
Elsewhere Busoni lards Bach’s work with
an evocation of a musical toy-box (Bach
meets Busoni via Liadov) and ends with
a grandiose and gloriously misconceived
rewriting of the Aria – with octave
transformations and an imposed chorale.
It is also unduly protracted by Tanski,
who has taken advantage of the relative
licence offered to engage in some Gouldian
tempi for the Aria.
Perhaps all Busoni
admirers should try to hear what he
has done to the Goldbergs, if only to
test their allegiance against Busoni’s
cheek. If so they will hear that Tanski
takes Nun komm der Heiden Heiland
rather slowly and self-consciously.
In Nach der Wendung he fights
a noisy piano action and an enveloping
acoustic. As for his Liszt, maybe it’s
harsh to judge him against Wild and
Richter but, merely to demarcate Tanski’s
priorities, I should say his three Petrarch
Sonnets are relatively slow. They lack
the daemonic drama that is so much a
feature of Wild’s Liszt recordings and
lack the incredible tension Richter
generated from the Sonnets.