Notes and Editorial Reviews
Passacaglia in c,
Preludes and Fugues: in D,
in d, “Dorian,”
Piers Lane (pn)
HYPERION 67709 (71: 17)
Some impressive pianism may be found here, both from Piers Lane and prior to that from Eugen d’Albert. The latter was a virtuoso pianist and transcriber, also a composer whose opera
(1903) has remained popular in Germany. He was, however, born in Glasgow of French and English parents and began his career in England. Eventually he publicly renounced all things Anglo-Saxon, much to the annoyance of his mentor, Sir Arthur Sullivan, and settled in Berlin to concertize, performing the great masters: Bach, interwoven with Spohr and Beethoven. (Well, replace Spohr with Brahms.) Piers Lane has recorded d’Albert’s original piano music for Hyperion, and now adds a selection of his Bach transcriptions to their ongoing series, of which this disc is the eighth.
Kenneth Hamilton’s detailed notes elaborate on the contrast between d’Albert’s approach to that of Busoni, who transcribed many of the same organ works for piano. It is Busoni’s transcriptions that have remained in the repertoire, yet d’Albert’s sound more pianistic. Busoni emphasizes the link to the organ with fuller
and more octave doublings, often achieving a barnstorming grandeur. D’Albert does so to a lesser degree, but subtly suggests the organ’s changes of registration, helped in this instance by Lane’s carefully calibrated dynamic levels. The D-Minor Fugue (BWV 538) is a fine example: Over seven minutes it builds from a quiet opening to its full blazing conclusion in almost imperceptible increments.
Lane’s use of the pedal also evokes the organ’s ability to sustain tones, indeed to have them hang in the air, but without ever blurring the clarity of the lines. A suitably reverberant acoustic chosen by the recording team completes the picture.
All these virtues can be heard in the opening C-Minor Passacaglia, a work beloved of Bach transcribers (not least Stokowski, for symphony orchestra). D’Albert’s version has been recorded by several pianists, including Angela Hewitt for the same label, yet I cannot imagine it being played more beautifully or with more understated stamina than it is here by Lane. Other highlights include the joyous A-Major Prelude and Fugue (BWV 536) and the Prelude in F Minor (BWV 534): hauntingly introspective, until all reverie is swept away in the final flourish.
In short, this disc is highly recommended even if you aren’t collecting the entire series.
FANFARE: Phillip Scott
Works on This Recording
Featured Sound Samples
Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 538 "Dorian": I. Prelude
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