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Bach Piano Transcriptions Vol 9 - A Bach Book For Harriet Cohen / Plowright

Plowright,Jonathan / Bach,J.s.
Release Date: 09/14/2010 
Label:  Hyperion   Catalog #: 67767  
Composer:  Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jonathan Plowright
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
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Notes and Editorial Reviews

Plowright proves to be an interpreter of marvellous tonal resources. This series continues to impress in every way.

It was in 1931 that pianist Harriet Cohen invited leading British composers to contribute to a ‘Bach Book’ to be published by the Oxford University Press. Of the many approached, Elgar agreed but in the end didn’t deliver, and Holst declined. Otherwise she had considerable success, and the music was duly performed at the Queen’s Hall in October 1932. The book is arranged alphabetically, which is how Hyperion presents it in this, the ninth volume in their ‘Bach Transcriptions’ series, one I have followed with a very real admiration. The disc begins and ends with other transcriptions as well, in the main by
Read more outstanding pianists – Hess, Borwick, Fryer and Stevenson - and also by Hubert Foss, whose contribution is notably successful.

In his notes Jonathan Plowright cites Ronald Stevenson’s dismissal of a number of these Bach transcriptions as ‘how not to write for the piano’. It’s a challenging procedure, thus to lament the incompetence of the music you are performing, but one need not necessarily agree with Stevenson. It’s true that Bantock’s Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme contrasts strongly with Busoni’s arrangement, and its ‘pastoral sixths’ - Plowright’s amusing description – might seem to lend a somewhat trivial, Arcadian air, but heard in the right light I think it’s actually rather effective. Bax’s transcription had been written in 1927 for Cohen and it’s powerfully conceived, and magnetically performed here. Lord Berners’ offering was In dulci jubilo BWV729 and its deft pianistic conception must surely escape Stevensonian censure – it flowers ripely without any ponderous explication. Bliss provides a spare and reserved setting, and Bridge’s is similarly refined but more expansive and textually dense. Goossens’s is the only orchestral transcription, and Howells prefers a rather terse and brief setting. Lambert is lithe and bright in Der Tag, der ist so freudenreich whilst Walton later expanded his transcription of Herzlich tut mich verlangen into the fourth movement of The Wise Virgins. There’s an especially rapt setting of Wir glauben all an einen Gott BWV740 by William Gillies Whittaker. But of them all Vaughan Williams’s Ach bleib’ bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ BWV649 is, without doubt, the most spiritually uplifting, the most powerfully conceived and the most wholly successful. Plowright plays it with the strength, serenity and purpose it deserves, and demands.

The other transcriptions, not from Cohen’s Bach Book, are no less exciting. Leonard Borwick was a front-line pianist of the day and his two contributions are a grand Little Fugue and a Leipzig Chorale that gathers tension until a thunderous organ swell emerges with magnificent and unshakeable conviction. Myra Hess is also represented by two transcriptions; the first, obviously enough, is Jesu, joy of man’s desiring but the other, her arrangement of the Adagio from the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C minor BWV564, is very much less well known. Harriet Cohen’s own Be contented, O my soul sports a cool recitative and a pleasingly expanded aria. Hubert Foss’s contributions dates from 1937 and is praised by Stevenson for its ‘air’ – by which a lack of unpianistic tangle is meant, one assumes. Herbert Fryer was around a decade younger than Borwick, and an equally distinguished pianist; he made one 78 disc, for Vocalion. He chooses the Sarabande from the Cello Suite in D major and he catches its meditative movement adeptly. Stevenson, finally, goes for something typically different, his transcription of Stokowski’s transcription of Komm, süsser Tod which ends the disc with great character and strength.

The recorded sound is about as perfect as it gets and Plowright proves to be an interpreter of marvellous tonal resources. This series continues to impress in every way.

-- Jonathan Woolf, MusicWeb International
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Works on This Recording

1.
Fugue in G minor, BWV 578 "Little G minor" by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jonathan Plowright (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1706; Arnstadt, Germany 
Notes: Arranger: Leonard Borwick. 
2.
Mein Gott, wie lang, ach lange, BWV 155: no 1, Mein Gott, wie lang, ach lange by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jonathan Plowright (Piano)
Notes: Arranger: Harriet Cohen. 
3.
Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major, BWV 564 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jonathan Plowright (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1708-1717; ?Weimar, Germany 
Notes: Arranger: Myra Hess. 
4.
Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben, BWV 147: Jesu bleibet meine Freude "Jesu, joy of man's desiring" by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jonathan Plowright (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1723; Leipzig, Germany 
Notes: Arranger: Myra Hess. 
5.
Chorale Preludes (6) BWV 645-650 "Schübler": no 1, Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 645 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jonathan Plowright (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1748-1749; Leipzig, Germany 
Notes: Arranger: Granville Bantock. 
6.
Fantasie in G major, BWV 572: Gravement by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jonathan Plowright (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1706; Arnstadt, Germany 
Notes: Arranger: Arnold Bax. 
7.
In dulci jubilo, BWV 729 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jonathan Plowright (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1708-1717; ?Weimar, Germany 
Notes: Arranger: Lord Berners. 
8.
Orgelbüchlein: Das alte Jahr vergangen ist, BWV 614 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jonathan Plowright (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1713-1714; Weimar, Germany 
Notes: Arranger: Arthur Bliss. 
9.
Komm, süsser Tod, komm, sel'ge Ruh'!, BWV 478 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jonathan Plowright (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1736; Leipzig, Germany 
Notes: Arranger: Frank Bridge. 
10.
Brandenburg Concerto no 2 in F major, BWV 1047: 2nd movement, Andante by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jonathan Plowright (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1717-1718; ?Cöthen, Germany 
Notes: Arranger: Eugene Goossens. 
11.
Orgelbüchlein: O Mensch, bewein' dein' Sünde gross, BWV 622 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jonathan Plowright (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1714-1717; Weimar, Germany 
Notes: Arranger: Herbert Howells. 
12.
Chorale Preludes (6) BWV 645-650 "Schübler": no 4, Meine Seele erhebet den Herren, BWV 648 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jonathan Plowright (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1748-1749; Leipzig, Germany 
Notes: Arranger: John Ireland. 
13.
Orgelbüchlein: Der Tag, der ist so freudenreich, BWV 605 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jonathan Plowright (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1713-1717; Weimar, Germany 
Notes: Arranger: Constant Lambert. 
14.
Chorale Preludes (6) BWV 645-650 "Schübler": no 5, Ach bleib' bei uns, BWV 649 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jonathan Plowright (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1748-1749; Leipzig, Germany 
Notes: Arranger: Ralph Vaughan Williams. 
15.
Herzlich tut mich verlangen, BWV 727 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jonathan Plowright (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1708-1717; ?Weimar, Germany 
Notes: Arranger: William Walton. 
16.
Wir glauben all' an einen Gott, BWV 740 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jonathan Plowright (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Notes: Arranger: William Gillies Whittaker. 
17.
O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig, BWV 656 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jonathan Plowright (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1723; ?Weimar, Germany 
Notes: Arranger: Leonard Borwick. 
18.
Ich bin ein guter Hirt, BWV 85: Seht, was die Liebe tut! by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jonathan Plowright (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1725; Leipzig, Germany 
Notes: Arranger: Hubert Foss. 
19.
Suite for Cello solo no 6 in D major, BWV 1012: 4th movement, Sarabande by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jonathan Plowright (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: circa 1720; Cöthen, Germany 
Notes: Arranger: Herbert Fryer. 
20.
Komm, süsser Tod, komm, sel'ge Ruh'!, BWV 478 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Jonathan Plowright (Piano)
Period: Baroque 
Written: by 1736; Leipzig, Germany 
Notes: Arranger: Ronald Stevenson. 

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