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All items except "Liebster Jesu" were issued as the work of Joyce Hatto in 2005 on Concert Artist/Fidelio CACD 9100-2 and CACD 9101-2.
This disc may not be currently available.

Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
CD 1 [50:19]
BACH-LISZT TRANSCRIPTIONS

Fantasy and Fugue in G minor, BWV 542 [11:12]
Prelude and Fugue in C major, BWV 547 [08:11]
Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 543 [08:32]
LISZT

Prelude on Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen [05:36]
Variations on Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen [16:14]
CD 2 [55:49]
BACH-LISZT TRANSCRIPTIONS

Prelude and Fugue in C minor, BWV 546 [10:26]
Prelude and Fugue in C major, BWV 545 [05:47]
Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 548 [14:42]
Prelude and Fugue in B minor, BWV 544 [10:36]
LISZT

Fantasy and Fugue on B-A-C-H [12:33]
BACH-LISZT

Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier, BWV 730-1 (not 633 as stated) [03:38]
Karl-Andreas Kolly (piano)
PAN CLASSICS 510 [2 CDs, timings as above]

 




Karl-Andreas Kolly was born in 1965 in Switzerland. He took part in master classes with Karl Engel and Mieczyslaw Horszowski. He set down his first disc, of Schumann, in 1992, also for Pan Classics, and has now made a total of around 40. These are divided between solo, concerto and ensemble playing and present a mix of well- and less-well-known music. He is a Professor at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater of Zurich.

He receives a finely sonorous recording in this useful grouping of Liszt’s Bach transcriptions and Bach-inspired works – more so than the slightly steely fortes on offer in the Denon recording of the "Weinen, Klagen" variations by Michel Dalberto, another "Hatto pianist" I have been listening to recently. In this work Kolly keeps a firm eye on the structure, allowing the music to build up gradually and inexorably. Dalberto is more improvisational, more inclined to go for extremes, though never exaggeratedly so.

You might say that Kolly approaches the music from the Bachian angle, Dalberto from the Lisztian. Continuing this theme, on Kolly’s disc covers the transcriptions are listed by the BWV – i.e. Bach catalogue – numbers, though "Liebster Jesu" is not the BWV 633 Orgelbüchlein pair as claimed but BWV 730-1, two separate chorale-preludes in the same key which, as organists well know, can be neatly played together as a theme and variation. The Hatto plagiary identifies the pieces by their Searle numbers – the Liszt catalogue – and has neatly regrouped the works in the Liszt-Searle sequence. This is rather typical of the whole scam in its neat deployment of genuine musicological knowledge to confuse anyone who might have Kolly in one hand and "Hatto" in the other.

Oddly enough, my one doubt about Kolly’s splendid Bach-Liszt playing, which is throughout technically secure, scrupulously prepared and attentive to the structure of the music, is that it is Bach-led rather than Liszt-led.

Take the A minor fugue. In its early stages Kolly offers an amiable staccato articulation – post-Tureck, post-Gould, vaguely HIP (Historically Informed Practice)-aware. The sort of Bach-on-the-piano style we more or less take for granted today. Then in the later stages the texture thickens as Liszt piles on the full-organ effects. Kolly obliges with more pedal and a more evidently virtuosic style. In other words, his idea seems to be to play it as real Bach as far as possible and concede Bach-Liszt only when the writing forces his hand.

Given the approach, he carries it through admirably, but I wonder if he wouldn’t have been happier playing real Bach. I see his recordings include the Goldberg Variations.

I can certainly imagine some such Russian cult-artist as Grigory Ginzburg taking one of these pieces and, by skilful manipulation of colour and pedalling, creating an organ-like illusion all the way through. I believe a few artists of earlier generations actually did set down performances on these lines but I don’t have access to any right now. One rather imagines that this is how Liszt himself would have done it.

However, Bach seems to have a different meaning for every generation. By likening these works to Bach-on-the-piano as we know it today, Kolly may win friends for them among listeners who enjoy Bach but do not particularly relish either the harpsichord or the organ.

My other query concerns the most Lisztian work here, the Fantasy and Fugue on B-A-C-H. Kolly gives it a big-limbed virtuoso reading, possibly too aggressive. I wondered if a more controlled passion, rather on the lines of Cortot playing Franck, would reap more dividends.

Far more easily available – though I haven’t heard them – are Leslie Howard’s Hyperion performances. Suffice to say, if you like the approach I have described, Kolly should prove entirely satisfying provided you can find his album.

My personal interest in the Hattification process concerns only the transcriptions – the Bach-inspired works in Volume 2 were not sent to me. Most of these have been stretched or shrunk, but by a matter of a few seconds either way. Hatto students will not need me to tell them of Farhan Malik’s website, in which a complete documentation of the entire scam is being painstakingly built up. The exact statistics of the time-stretching, with the corroborating wavefiles, can be seen there. Here are the links for Volume 1 and Volume 2.

As I have pointed out in previous Hatto re-reviews, a margin of a few seconds is probably smaller than the variation which Kolly himself would make from day to day, from piano to piano, from acoustic to acoustic. Up to 3 or 4 per cent – only the C minor Prelude goes slightly further on Volume 1 – does not normally affect our perception of the performance. However, it may do so if the performance is already on the brink of the fastest reasonable tempo. Kolly does not usually court extremes but in the case of the E minor fugue Bach provides the performer with considerable scope for virtuoso display of which Kolly quite rightly avails himself. Here the "Hatto" left me a little breathless and I was surprised to find it only 8 seconds shorter.

One piece of time-stretching does deserve comment, even though it is on Volume 2. This is the "Weinen, Klagen" Prelude which has been elongated by over 17%, one of the biggest pieces of manipulation in the entire scam. Without having heard the result I can only comment that I felt perfectly comfortable with Kolly’s tempo and I can’t imagine why the fraudsters felt the need to change it so radically.

More than the tempo, it is the changed sound-picture which completes the disguise. Pan Classics’ bold, centralized sound picture is distanced, the piano skewed slightly, usually to the left but sometimes to the right. This more ethereal, almost disembodied sound gives the performances a more calm, collected air. It is remarkable just how far they give the illusion of a serene old lady playing while the real recordings suggest a vigorous-spirited young man. I can well imagine a listener, unconcerned with detailed comparisons let alone suspecting a scam, hearing them side by side and characterizing the two performers in just such a way.

Perhaps on account of this, my registered reactions on hearing the original Kolly – before refreshing my memory as to what I previously wrote – were slightly different. Those who wish to take this as proof that critics have no ears are free to do so. Some critics might have doctored their second response to match the first. I prefer to be honest. My "Hatto" review began with a long dissertation on organ-piano transcriptions in general which I won’t repeat. Interested readers will find it here. My discussion of the performances themselves is given as an appendix below.

The "Hatto" was accompanied by an often erudite, anonymous note, presumably by the Royston swindlers themselves. Characteristically, musicology, fantasy and difficulties over placing apostrophes are pretty well intertwined. At one point Liszt apparently has to be defended against practices not dissimilar to their own:

It was after Liszt’s immensely successful recitals in Berlin in 1841/42 that the Berlin publisher Schlesinger brought out separate editions of Bach works with the inscription "played in concerts by Franz Liszt". Some [of] Liszt’s detractors still try to peddle doubt as to whether Liszt did play, actually featuring these pieces, and initiated these publications or merely acquiesced to the publisher[’]s advertising campaign to sell more printed copies.

The discussion of the "Weinen, Klagen" Prelude introduces two other Hatto leitmotifs, an inexhaustible fund of stories about the great and good – if you haven’t got a story to hand, make it up – and the idiocy of critics.

It was frequently played by Rachmaninov and when he introduced it for the first time in a London recital in the thirties the London critics rushed into print to report that the great pianist had had a memory lapse! The critics, of course, were only aware of the more extended piece, a brilliant set of variations, which Liszt produced a few years later.

Better seek independent corroboration before quoting this one about the great man.

Another Hatto trait is an engaging use of Malapropism:

… the transcription has attracted … the virtuoso pianist seeking to exhort[sic!] the music to his way of thinking …

And finally, a hint of the generalized superficiality of the musical world in general against which the great Hatto had battled so nobly if vainly (and ungrammatically):

It may be that this music is quite deep and, as a consequence, the performer has to dig deeper to make it work on the minds and souls of the audience. There does [sic!] exist, after all, in the vast repertoire of piano literature so many easier pickings that make for more obvious box office appeal.

Appendix: my original review

So in the end, we have here neither Bach-on-the-piano nor a pianistic illusion of Bach-on-the-organ but something different, romantically rich and satisfying as long as you are not incurably wedded to authentic instruments and an "authentic" approach. And yet, Bach is incredibly, wonderfully, resistant to transcription. Although this disc is part of Hatto’s ongoing Liszt cycle, in the end the voice we hear is Bach’s, and I am sure this is what Liszt would have wished. Much of the credit for this must also go to Hatto since she is able to create a convincingly full and pianistic sound while at the same time creating that sense of inexorable movement, never pressing the music but never letting it drag, which seems to be an essential of Bach interpretation whatever the instrument used. Once again, then, Joyce Hatto has found exactly the right style for the music she is playing. If you like your Bach full-blooded, and if you like "big-band" performances of his orchestral works which nevertheless remain in touch with the spirit of the composer (such as, for example, Sir Adrian Boult’s wonderful set of the Brandenburgs), then I think you will get a lot of pleasure out of this. All the same, I wish I could have heard Joyce Hatto’s thoughts on the "48" instead.

The recording is good though without quite the bloom and three-dimensionality of the best modern recordings. There is a generalized booklet note intended to accompany (I think) three discs; this sort of cost saving is all very well if, without it, we wouldn’t have had the record at all, but I think it might have been more clearly related to the single discs – it took me some time to work out that I hadn’t, in fact, been sent the wrong insert entirely.

Considering the entirely favourable tone of this review, it is remarkable yet revealing that Barrington-Coupe sent me a most indignant response to the suggestion that the notes might be less than perfect, though he was back to his "buttering up" tone by the end of the paragraph. This e-mail, and a slightly apologetic follow-up, appeared lost when I wrote my article "Joyce Hatto, Some Thoughts, Some Questions and a Lot of Letters". I’m now saving it up for the maturer reflections I hope to write at some stage.

Christopher Howell

 




 


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