Notes and Editorial Reviews
Until recently, not even the most esoteric piano buffs had heard of the American-born, Paris-based pianist Walter Rummel (1887-1953). Highly regarded (and sometimes derided) for his freewheeling Romantic performing style, Rummel also had a personal life that made colorful and controversial copy. Like many of his contemporaries, Rummel caught the Bach transcription bug, but he atypically focused on vocal rather than organ works. Only three organ prelude transcriptions survive in contrast to the 22 pieces based on vocal or instrumental movements from the Cantatas, the Magnificat, and the Christmas Oratorio. Pianistically speaking, they're largely cut from the thick textural cloth Busoni appropriated.
However, individual touches abound, like Rummel's quirky preference for the piano's highest, bell-like registers (Gelobet sei mein Gott BWV 129, Die Seele ruht in Jesu Händen BWV 127, and the Christmas Oratorio's chorale prelude Von Himmel hoch, da komm' ich her).
For all their stylish anachronisms, the transcriptions undoubtedly illuminate the music's inherent beauty and spiritual aura. So does Jonathan Plowright's beautiful tone and unruffled technique. This is masterly, transcendent piano playing on every level. To give a few examples, take Wir müssen durch viel Trübsal BWV 146, an early version of the familiar D minor keyboard concerto's first movement, where Plowright maintains the solo and orchestral strands in perfect, effortless perspective. Using hardly any pedal, Plowright's fiercely independent fingers gorgeously distinguish detached and legato lines throughout Zu Tanze, zu Sprunge BWV 204. If one were to add shellac surface scratch and reduce Hyperion's mellifluous stereo sonics to vintage 1935 mono, you'd swear that Edwin Fischer had come back to life. Rummel biographer Charles Timbrell contributes superb, informative annotations to one of the loveliest piano releases of 2006. [6/5/2006]
--Jed Distler, ClassicsToday.com Read less
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