This is an unusual disc for two specific reasons. Firstly,
it is very rare to find one devoted entirely to the complete
Bach-Busoni Chorale Preludes and other transcriptions by Busoni.
And second, the pianist Mordecai Shehori, has engaged in something
of a wholesale revision of Busoniís work in eight specific categories.
Shehori outlines them in commendably precise terms, and I ought
to draw attention to a few in order to give one an indication
of the ramifications of his work.
By using the organ originals as his point of departure Shehori
has reversed Busoniís arrangements in respect of such things
as trills, where Busoni opted for a single hand trill and Bach
asked for two hand trills. Or where Busoni altered harmonies,
Shehori has re-established the original. The same is true of
inverted chords and Busoniís avoidance of dissonances, and register
alterations as well. So there are quite a number of ramifications
that derive from Shehoriís interventionist approach to Busoniís
transcriptions. I sense the point is to re-establish a greater
fidelity to Bachís originals, to clear out perceived clutter
in Busoniís work, and to re-establish proper melodic lines in
the face of Busoniís occasional promotion of accompanying figures
over them. Clarity and also a restatement of Bachís original
patterns are clearly of fundamental importance to Shehori, and
his work here should, it seems to me, be seen and heard in that
His approach is sometimes unusually and intriguingly measured.
Wachet auf is played with great tenderness and limpidity.
As a result that Busonian incursive left hand is not so abrupt
and dramatic as it usually is, and the music emerges instead
as a study in piety and gentleness, not as a passionate and
outsize drama between the two hands, which all too often it
is. Nun komm' der Heiden Heiland has considerable gravity
and it too is slow, slower maybe than one is used to, but a
function of its gravity is its textual clarity and immediacy.
Shehoriís lightness of touch and clarity of articulation are
perhaps best gauged in Nun freut euch, lieben Christen
which is deftly pointed, indeed at points almost frolicsome.
Grave, again slower than one might expect but not at all monumental,
is how Shehori approaches Ich ruf' zu dir where the salient
features are precision, clarity of texture and an emotive state
best characterised as withdrawn.
Shehori avoids overplaying these chorale preludes. His approach
to Busoni, in view of his own revisions, is not simply textual,
because the works do emerge with a definite and sharply defined
sense of characterisation. It is less public and showy, more
introverted, slower. The pealing gravity of Durch Adams Fall
ist ganz verdebt is again predicated on meditative lines,
and serves as an interpretative marker of Shehoriís approach
in general. Similarly he abjures, say, Michelangeliís more adamantine
approach to the Chaconne. Once again itís digital clarity that
is paramount, not a gauze or wash of sound, nor indeed the promotion
of voicings or sonorities to which Shehori is antipathetic.
The sense here is of a directional arc. So too in the case of
the Toccata in C major, a powerfully conceived, often gaunt,
and triumphant reading.
In view of the uniqueness of this disc, Shehoriís own revisions
of Busoniís transcriptions being of material significance, itís
a highly personal question as to how one will respond. But there
is something intensely intriguing about Shehoriís undertaking
that has given me repeated occasion to appreciate his deeply
held point of view.
Komm, Gott, SchŲpfer!, transcription for piano (after J.S.
Bach, BWV 631; Ten Chorale Preludes No. 1), KiV B27/1 (1898)
Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, transcription for piano (after
J. S. Bach, BWV 645; Ten Chorale Preludes No. 2), KiV B27/2
Nun komm' der Heiden Heiland, transcription for piano (after
J. S. Bach, BWV 659; Ten Chorale Preludes No. 3), KiV B27/3(1898)
Nun freut euch, lieben Christen, transcription for piano (after
J. S. Bach, BWV 734; Ten Chorale Preludes No. 4), KiV B27/4
Ich ruf' zu dir, transcription for piano (after J.S. Bach, BWV
639; Ten Chorale Preludes No. 5), KiV B27/5 (1898)[4:35]
Herr Gott, nun schleuŖ den Himmel auf, transcription for piano
(after J.S. Bach, BWV 617; Ten Chorale Preludes No. 6), KiV
B27/6 (1898) [2:36]
Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verdebt (I), transcription for piano
(after J.S. Bach, BWV 637; Ten Chorale Preludes No. 7), KiV
B27/7 (1898) [1:48]
Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verdebt (II), transcription for piano
(after J.S. Bach, BWV 705; Ten Chorale Preludes No. 8), KiV
B27/8 (1898) [3:41]
In dir ist Freude, transcription for piano (after J. S. Bach,
BWV 615; Ten Chorale Preludes No. 9), KiV B27/9 (1898) [2:41]
Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, transcription for piano (after
J.S. Bach, BWV 665; Ten Chorale Preludes No. 10), KiV B27/10
Chaconne, transcription for piano in D minor (after J. S. Bach,
BWV 1004), KiV B24
Toccatas, transcriptions for piano in C major (BWV 564; BBGA
7/3), KiV B29 (1899) [17:02]