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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, BWV542 arr. Franz Liszt [12:18]
Six Little Preludes, BWV 925, 929, 927, 942, 924, 928 [6:08]
Italian Concerto BWV971 [14:05]
Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, from Cantata Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV147, arr. Myra Hess [3:24]
Jesus Christus, Gottes Sohn, from Cantata Christ Lag in Todesbunden, BWV4 arr. Walter Rummel [4:02]
Ich ruf’zu Dir, Herr, from Orgel-Büchlein, BWV639 arr. Ferrucio Busoni [4:19]
Ertöt’ uns durch dein’ Güte (Mortify us by Thy Grace), from Cantata Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe, BWV22, arr. Walter Rummel [3:42]
Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV543, arr. Franz Liszt [10:47]
Penelope Thwaites (piano)
rec. February 2013, Potton Hall, Suffolk

For her hour-long recital Penelope Thwaites has taken a diverse selection of Bach transcriptions originally conceived variously for harpsichord, organ or clavichord. The result is a convincing series of pieces, well structured, vividly played, that supports the theme of the disc which is the ‘worldly and religious Bach’.
Two particularly interesting transcriptions come from the pen of the pianist Walter Rummel. Jesus Christus, Gottes Sohn derives from the cantata Christ Lag in Todesbunden and is a stirring example of the transcriber’s art. Thwaites captures perfectly its grandeur and nobility, her tone colours burnished, her voicings warm. In its declamatory exultation this performance compares well with Rummel’s own 1928 78rpm recording, which is a model of drama. At the same time he also recorded Mortify us by Thy Grace, from the cantata Jesus nahm zu sich die Zwölfe. Once again Thwaites plays it with great acuity, sharing the transcriber’s own sense of inspired simplicity. Is the little trill she makes at the end authentic? Rummel doesn’t make it in his recording. There are two more generally familiar transcriptions drawn from various sources. Myra Hess’s Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring is welcome despite its ubiquity. Fortunately Thwaites make no attempt to impose an interpretation, instead playing with unaffected dignity. It doesn’t sound like any of Hess’s recordings, studio or live, nor does it sound like the recordings of, say, Lipatti or – one of the most striking versions of all – Irene Scharrer; and not sounding like them is surely a good thing and an index of independence of mind. Busoni’s Ich ruf’zu Dir, Herr is very measured indeed, and meditative.
There are two large-scale Liszt arrangements. The Fantasia and Fugue in G minor is an example of Penelope Thwaites’s digital clarity in which the gradations of tone are especially notable. Similarly the Prelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV543 receives a reading of considerable control, with the music’s counterpoint rendered clear but never coldly descriptive. Thwaites sounds quite as perceptive here as in the more intimate cantata transcriptions.
With a most attractive recording, this release merits warmest admiration.
Jonathan Woolf