This release is timed to coincide with the ninetieth anniversary of the death of Ferruccio Busoni. The works on offer have played a significant role in the life of the German pianist David Theodore Schmidt (b.1982). He has already recorded three of the Bach Chorale Preludes
for a now deleted CD in 2005, and many of the works here have been included in his recital programmes. With regard to the Chaconne
, he explains that it has been a long-held ambition to record this work, and having let it mature in his mind and under his fingers, he now feels ready. With regard to the Brahms Chorales, these are rarely heard, and it is his aim to make them better known.
It was Busoni’s intention when transcribing these works, not merely to make literal transcriptions, but to ‘recreate’ them, whilst retaining the true substance of the music. Perhaps his most famous transcription, and certainly the most performed, is the Bach Chaconne
from the D minor Partita for solo violin. There are several good recordings. Favourites of mine include Arturo Benedetti Michelangeli, Nicolai Demidenko and Evgeny Kissin. Schmidt’s stands shoulder to shoulder with these. He has a formidable technique and delivers a magisterial account. Nicely paced, with sensitivity to dynamic gradients he contrasts the declamatory moments with the poetic ones. It’s a similar story with the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, BWV 564
. Here there is great drama, with organ-like sonorities emerging from the instrument.
The pianist brings to the remaining Bach and Brahms Chorales an intelligent and thoughtful approach. Bach’s Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland
is exquisitely realized with the pianist paying close attention to the teasing out and delineation of lines. A nice touch is the last item Schafe Können Sicher Weiden
(Sheep may safely graze), transcribed by Busoni’s pupil Egon Pertri – a poignant addition.
Schmidt has contributed his own notes to this release, thus bringing his own personal aspect to bear, and very informative they are too. I was taken by the beautifully rich, warm tone of the C.Bechstein D-282 which he uses, with the Schloss Britz acoustic conferring an ideal spatial sonority. I must confess to never having heard this pianist before, but on the evidence of this CD I shall no doubt go on to explore some of his other recordings. This disc offers a valuable and enjoyable musical experience.