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Piano Transcriptions and Arrangements by Ignaz Friedman
Johann Sebastian BACH
Flute Sonata in E - Flat Major, BWV 1031: II. Siciliano [2:16]
Jean-Philippe RAMEAU
Pièces de clavecin: Suite in E Minor: V. Le rappel des oiseaux [3:05]
Les Indes galantes: Musette [2:07]
Christoph Willibald GLUCK
Orfeo ed Euridice, Act II: Dance of the Blessed Spirits, "Mélodie" [4:12]
Nocturne No. 5 in B - Flat Major, H. 37 [5:03]
6 Pieces for Organ: No. 3. Prelude, fugue et variation in B Minor, Op. 18, M. 30 [9:09]
Nicolas-Marie DALAYRAC
Nina, ou La folle par amour: Romance [3:13]
Jean-Francois DANDRIEU
Le Caquet [1:39]
Pièces de Clavecin, Book 1, Suite No. 4: Les Fifres [2:40]
Keyboard Sonata in G Major, K.523/L.490/P.527 [2:53]
Keyboard Sonata in F Major, K.446/L.433/P.177 [5:44]
Christoph Willibald GLUCK/Friedman
Don Juan: Gavotte [4:17]
Pieces de clavecin, Book 1: 5th Ordre in A Major - minor: La Tendre Fanchon [3:53]
Giovanni Battista GRAZIOLI
Adagio [11:08]
Christoph Willibald GLUCK
Orfeo ed Euridice: Ballet des Ombres Heureuses [4:01]
Joseph Banowetz (piano)
rec. Holy Trinity Lutheran Church, Buffalo, New York 16–20 Jan 2012
GRAND PIANO GP712 [65:18]

I recently reviewed Joseph Banowetz’s disc of original works by the famous virtuoso Ignaz Friedman so it seemed a good thing to review the sequel which consists of transcriptions by the same composer. Many of the pieces on this disc are short and consist of transcriptions of music from the Baroque, much of which was originally intended for playing on harpsichords or similar early keyboard instruments.

To begin with we have a very melodious transcription of the ‘Siciliano’ from Bach’s Flute Sonata, BWV1031 - a work also transcribed for piano solo by Alkan. This is extremely well played, very peaceful and restful. It also serves to show that Friedman knew how to arrange non-piano works for piano. Next follow two short pieces by Rameau. Again, these are wonderfully played with spot-on phrasing and expression.

Track 4 is Friedman’s transcription of ‘The Dance of the Blessed Spirits’ by Gluck – a piece famous in a transcription for piano by Sgambati, another sadly neglected composer who deserves more exposure. There is a very palpable sense of calm throughout the piece and it is every bit as effective as Sgambati’s arrangement. I don’t know why this is not played more often as it would make a superb encore to a recital.

I had no idea that Friedman had arranged Field’s famous Fifth Nocturne; the changes are mostly fairly minor with interesting additions to the harmony. The effect is like viewing the original through a prism with some very un-Field like chords giving some distinctly twentieth century sounds. Despite this, the atmosphere of the original is retained and it is excellently played. This is the first time this work has been recorded.

I am aware of several transcriptions of César Franck’s ‘Prelude, Fugue and Variation’ and have played the one by Harold Bauer myself. As with the Field, I was unaware Friedman had transcribed this work. The organ version is very effective but a decent transcription for piano makes the details stand out better. Friedman’s transcription differs little from the Bauer but the final variation is quite different with the additional ornamentation included. I have one minor criticism of this performance: it is taken a fraction too fast for my liking - there is plenty of room on the disc to have taken another minute or so with this work. However, the final variation is particularly smoothly played and, as before, Mr. Banowetz plays everything very well.

Next follows a little piece by Dalayrac which contains some complex figuration for the right hand at the beginning. The piece settles down with an exquisite melody at about 40 seconds which is further developed and leads into a lovely flourish in the right hand before one final statement of the theme and a quiet ending.

The following pair of pieces, originally by Dandrieu are rather pretty little miniatures. The first of these (subtitled ‘The Chatter’) is a boisterous affair with repeated notes and lots of leaping about. This is very infectious and cheerful and is brilliantly played. The second is equally brilliant and is constructed almost like a set of variations with again lots of leaping about. I’d like to hear the original to compare although the notes go into some detail about the changes Friedman made. Again, everything here is tastefully played and the pedalling and clarity of playing is excellent.

As many people know, Scarlatti wrote 555 keyboard sonatas (sometimes called ‘Exercises’) and many composers have arranged these. Friedman was not alone but here we have his version of K.523 and K.446; they make an interesting contrasted pairing as a ‘Gigue’ and a ‘Pastorale’. The ‘Gigue’ is very happy and bouncy in contrast to the slower and more sedate ‘Pastorale’. Neither is lacking in charm and for someone who doesn’t like Scarlatti - due to a bad experience in a piano exam years ago - I feel that these performances may change my mind. This sounds more like an original work by Friedman than a transcription of a work by a much earlier composer and the ending is particularly harmonically varied. The last statement of the theme is beautifully done.

Gluck is the subject of the next transcription, a ‘Gavotte’ from ‘Don Juan’. The piece is mostly reflective and calm but with plenty of hidden difficulties which is fitting as the piece was dedicated to the well thought of but slightly eccentric Ukrainian pianist Vladimir de Pachmann. This is another charming little piece, well worthy of being included in some enterprising pianist’s repertoire. As with the Field, this is the first recording of this work.

François Couperin wrote a great many ‘Pièces de Clavecin’ and this transcription is of the fifth piece from book one and translates as the “The Soft Kerchief” – a rather odd title. This is set out as a set of variations with lots of interesting harmonies which Couperin would never have thought of. There is some difficult piano writing here especially in maintaining the tune in the inner voices of the piano. As I expected, this is all played very well and despite the difficulties - especially in the middle part - the piece ends reflectively with a simple statement.

The longest piece on the CD follows next and it is by a composer I have never heard of – Giovanni Grazoli who was an organist at St. Mark’s in Venice. This ‘Adagio’ is arranged initially with a simple statement of the theme before the filling in of harmonies and figuration which adds to the lovely peaceful atmosphere of the piece. It is interesting to note that the composer only died in 1820 and yet his writing - as transcribed by Friedman - sounds more akin to something which Bach would have written a hundred years before. There is simplicity to this piece which is most disarming and Mr. Banowetz makes a splendid job of it.

Lastly we hear another Gluck transcription from ‘Orfeo ed Euridice’ – this time of the ‘Ballet des ombres heureuses’. It's stunningly well played and phrased throughout. The playing is impeccable and the delicate nature of the piece is well arranged and played on the piano.

To sum up, as with the first disc I reviewed of works by Friedman, also played by Joseph Banowetz, the piano sound is extremely well captured and the playing is fantastic. The music sustains interest throughout. The disc is fairly well filled and the cover notes are interesting and informative.

Jonathan Welsh



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