This recording brings together all the arrangements for harpsichord by Bach of instrumental concertos by his Italian contemporary Antonio Vivaldi, adding those of one concerto each by the brothers Alessandro and Benedetto Marcello. They are performed by Sophie Yates who has made a series of solo CDs for Chandos, many of which have won international awards. She has been described by Gramophone as ‘hugely talented’ and by BBC Music as playing ‘with exceptional poise’.
Moving from the harpsichord to the clavichord or the organ was probably easy enough for Johann Sebastian Bach. The source of the sound didn’t matter, because for the master of Leipzig, what counted were thought and intellect: the form, tonality and melodic contours ere more important than the instrument itself. And indeed, through this work of musical thought, Bach used different keyboards, prefiguring the instruments to come: the piano as a synthesis of the harpsichord, the organ and the clavichord.
Nothing new about this concept; music inspired by, or transcriptions of, the music of Bach. But surely this never gets tired. The young Dutch pianist Hannes Minnaar has collected many of the “usual suspects” as well as some charming rarities. In the former category there are the great Liszt works, including an essentially literal transcription for piano of a prelude and fugue originally for organ, and his masterful melding of the Baroque and the high Romantic in his grandiose tribute to the Master by using German notation to make a melody of the letters of his name…
The recordings released in this series are devoted to the music of Bach, never a specialty among Russians, and they have the feeling of something extreme, developed in isolation. Feinberg plays Bach, perhaps, as Liszt might have heard Bach and played him – with maximum use of the pedals, a full range of dynamics, and an approach that in every way transforms Bach into an arch-Romantic. This disc, in the label's Feinberg series, is perhaps the most extreme of all, for here the artist tackles not only piano works but those for organ – the listener is treated not only to Feinberg's interpretations but also to his transcriptions. Sample the booming bass lines of the group of chorale preludes in the middle of the program. Of course, the line between transcription and interpretation in this case is not terribly clear. Taken as a whole, the Chromatic fantasia and fugue, BWV 903, leaves the impression that the music has been pushed nearly as far as in Busoni's Bach transcriptions; it's not Bach, really, but it's quite a thrill.
Yes, Olga Kern does appear in her photographs to be quite beautiful, glamorously, gorgeously, gloriously beautiful. Try not to hold that against her because, under all her appearance of beauty, Kern is actually a great musician and the proof is in her disc of transcriptions and variations by Rachmaninov. Kern's physical beauty is matched and surpassed by her tone, her technique, and, best of all, her interpretations. Her tone is clear, deep, rich, strong, and warm. Her technique is effortless, flawless, and just about beyond belief. And her interpretations are even better.