One of the most grown-up review sites around
One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here


International mailing

Up to 40% off

  Founder: Len Mullenger




Piano Transcriptions by Junichi Steven Sato (b. 1973)
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

Passacaglia and Fugue in c minor for Organ BWV 582 [13:35]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Psalm XIII (1855) [23:13]
Cesar FRANCK (1822-1890) transc. Alfred Cortot (1877-1962)

Violin Sonata in A (1886) [29:31]
Junichi Steven Sato (piano)
rec. 20, 23-24 August 2004, DePaul University Concert Hall, Chicago

I was quite excited to find this disc had been sent to me for review — there are not many piano transcriptions of Bach’s monumental and difficult passacaglia out there. The only other that I found briefly available is the amazing performance by Igor Zhukov playing his own transcription for Melodiya back in 1966 (the BMG/Melodiya item number is 74321-33214-2 nla).

This transcription, as with the Zhukov, is the performer’s own, and depending on your preferences regarding how Bach should sound, you may choose one over the other. When I say ‘how Bach should sound’, I refer not to organ vs. piano. I’d probably be more clear if I said ‘how Bach should be played’, referring to tempi, interior voices in the counterpoint and dynamics. Zhukov sticks closely to a strict tempo, as well as to an approximation of the various stops of the organ that are present in the original version of the piece. It is played like Bach, with allegiance less to pianism than to the instrument for which the work was originally written. It sounds like an organ piece transcribed for piano.

Sato, here, plays Bach much as one would play Chopin or Liszt - and it is no surprise that a Liszt piece is next in the track listing; this may rub some the wrong way. Sato’s approach shows his allegiance to the pianistic. It sounds like a Liszt adaptation of the piece. Romanticisms abound; the basso ostinato opening is far slower than the Zhukov or the organ performances of the work I have heard, but by halfway in, he is going at a clip very much faster than when he first started. There is much rubato and some things get lost in the shuffle that remain clear in the Zhukov. Much is here that is amazing, but the flashiness and inclusion of things for effect (glissandi at the end of the fugue — in Bach?) may stand in the way of enjoyment for some. The piece shines through, but in comparison, this reviewer recommends the Zhukov transcription.

The transcription Sato does next, of Liszt’s Psalm 13, is a more comfortable fit. The piece opens with the piano rolling in the bass and a three note figure - the same descending figure, it turns out, as the opening notes in Rachmaninov’s Prelude in c-sharp minor, transposed up a fifth. This is Liszt that sounds like Liszt and is played like Liszt, in perfect keeping with Liszt’s own many transcriptions. The program notes indicate that the piece is not a particularly pianistic work, which is certainly true, but Sato here does very well in bringing a piece for tenor, chorus and orchestra into the repertoire of the piano.

An additional great treat is the transcription of Franck’s violin sonata in A, as transcribed by piano virtuoso Alfred Cortot. I was not previously aware of such a transcription, and Cortot’s inclusion of the singing violin line here is done with great artistry, sometimes needing to shift octaves to make the piece playable by a mere two hands.

The playing here is superb, and I recommend this disc for the Liszt-Sato and the Franck-Cortot. Regarding the passacaglia, I recommend the Zhukov over this, but this disc is an impressive and ambitious program worthy of notice.

David Blomenberg



Advertising on

Donate and keep us afloat


New Releases

Naxos Classical

Nimbus Podcast

Obtain 10% discount

Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off

Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger

Return to Index

Untitled Document

Reviews from previous months
Join the mailing list and receive a hyperlinked weekly update on the discs reviewed. details
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board
Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.