Bach is the focus of this release from pianist Margaret Wacyk, an album devoted ‘Soli Deo Gloria’ and, indeed, the Glory is God’s. I began by listening to the Siloti arrangement of the Adagio from the Sonata in F for violin and keyboard, a well-established repertoire piece in concert and, especially, on disc. Wacyk plays with sparing rubato, but employs it perceptively, and her musicianship is predicated on a firm line untroubled by sentimentality. The recording, a touch hard, emphasises this quickness of purpose - quickness but not metricality - whereas a more cushioned performance such as that by Hamish Milne (Hyperion CDA67506) explores a more quiescent tonal perspective. She is perhaps a touch less successful than Milne in the Siloti-arranged Prelude in B minor from the Clavier Büchlein für WF Bach where the drier acoustic and spare pedalling encourages thoughts of harpsichord imitation.
In the main she abjures the grandiose and magisterial even when latent. Thus the Toccata and Fugue in D minor is a more seamless, quite lateral traversal with, seemingly, the intent to allow the music to fuse from paragraph to paragraph. There’s no attempt to imitate the imperious grandiosity of a Grigory Ginzburg here, the playing remaining, if anything, on the dainty side with voicings quite sublimated, and the drama kept at a very cool setting. This clearly reflects a strong musical and aesthetic choice.
Hyphenation is a strong part of the repertoire in this release - Siloti, Busoni and also Rachmaninoff, whose famous arrangement from the E major Violin Sonata she plays: just this movement. Here she plays with time, perhaps to excess, the music sometimes held in reverie-like stasis. She also finds some quite droll voicings, though they’re not ones that Rachmaninoff found in his tensile performance of 1942. One moment in the Bach-Busoni Ich ruf zu dir, Herr disturbed me and that comes at 1:13 when she breaks the line completely, to restart again after a pause. The speedings up and exaggerations here strike me as strange indulgences for Wacyk; Egon Petri’s classic 78 retains integrity through its utter repudiation of anything other than the core of the music.
The most extended piece here is the English Suite in G minor in which Wacyk is at her best. Her playing is dedicated and rhythmically alert. She doesn’t take every opportunity to colour her tone, something that Angela Hewitt is at pains to do in her Hyperion set of the suites. Hewitt prefers more expressive extremes - slower and darker in the Courante for example - where her Fazioli shimmers with colour. Wacyk’s more direct, less showy performance is not inflexible and if she doesn’t cultivate Hewitt’s sense of the bereft in the Sarabande Wacyk’s performance is consistent, resolute and sensitively thoughtful.
Throughout, in fact, she reveals her affinities with the selected music, to which she responds with devotion and sincerity.