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Pristine Audio

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Orchestral Transcriptions
Toccata and Fugue in D minor (arr. Eugene Ormandy) [8:47]
rec. 31 October 1947
Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (from Cantata No. 147) (arr. Lucien Cailliet) [3:31]
rec. 22 January 1947
Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor (arr. Eugene Ormandy) [14:11]
rec. 13 October 1946
‘Air on the G string’ (from Suite No. 3 in D) [4:24]
rec. 7 November 1954
Fantasia and Fugue in G minor (arr. William R Smith) [12:00]
rec. 23 October 1955
Arioso (Sinfonia from Cantata No. 156) (arr. William R Smith) [5:07]
rec. 7 November 1954
Prelude and Fugue in C minor (arr. Eugene Ormandy) [11:19]
rec. 19 December 1954
Ach, Gott von Himmel sieh darein (arr. Harl McDonald) [4:39]
rec. 7 November 1954
'Little' Fugue in G minor (arr. William R Smith) [3:38]
rec. 19 December 1954
Come, sweet death (arr. Eugene Ormandy) [4:04]
rec. 15 April 1954
Fantasia and Fugue in C minor (arr. Edward Elgar) [8:12]
rec. 15 April 1954
Philadelphia Orchestra/Eugene Ormandy

Experience Classicsonline

Ormandy had quite a job on his hands to live up to his eminent Philadelphian predecessor Stokowski in this of all repertoires. But he had a sheaf of his own arrangements to bring to the table and these were augmented by those of others in these mid-1950s inscriptions for Columbia. They make for bracing listening.
Ormandy’s own arrangement of the Toccata and Fugue in D minor differs materially from Stokowski’s in its concentration on lighter textures and sectional clarity, neatly side-stepping the grandiloquence and sonority-rich conflations of the older man. The result is a valid approach of its own, one that models its independence on the d’Albert rather than the Busonian model perhaps. Still, Ormandy was not one to abjure grandiloquence as he shows in his arrangement of the Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, which emerges strong, and powerful. Even this though must cede its place in respect of heroism and sonority to the Prelude and Fugue in C minor, which is one of the most vital and powerfully moving things here, its Fugue rendered with as much commitment as the Prelude. Grave lower brass intones in Come, sweet death.
The intercession of Toccatas, Passacaglias and Preludes with Fugues and other pieces, works well programmatically. We can also hear the work of other arrangers. Lucien Cailliet, the French-born clarinettist and composer for wind forces, arranged Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring and its brassy patina, wind choir imitations of the organ, and swirling strings add a rich tapestry of its own. Vertiginous dynamics accentuate the expressive depth and the stentorian Romanticised close would surely have appealed to Stoky himself. For a modern take on Ormandy’s own arrangement try Chandos CHSA5030 where Leonard Slatkin espouses his and other conductor-arranger’s Bach.
The ‘Air on the G string’ receives a gloriously ripe, even glutinous reading, full of swoony Philly strings. And the Arioso (Sinfonia from Cantata No. 156) is the work of William R Smith, whose ‘heart beat’ pauses and dynamic variations tend to militate against the simplicity of the writing. There’s a whiff of special pleading in this arrangement which thins down to single string voices. Smith by the way was assistant conductor to Ormandy, as well as being an organist, conductor and transcriber. Rather better is the work of Harl MacDonald in Ach, Gott von Himmel sieh darein. The noble cantilena here is highly effective. You may know MacDonald’s name because the ex-manager of the orchestra – he was born in 1899 and died in 1955 – was closely associated with both Stokowski and Ormandy; many of his arrangements were performed by the orchestra Try to hear Stokowski’s recordings of his music.
Of the other pieces Ormandy champions Elgar’s arrangement of the Fantasia and Fugue in C minor with appropriate panache.
The disc, which has been successfully given the XR treatment, is packed to the gunnels and offers a decade’s worth of Ormandy’s post-Stokowskian investigation of the hyphenated world of Bach arrangements.
Jonathan Woolf



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