As a follow-up to his sensational debut album of Rachmaninov and Ravel (Etcetera KTC 1432, reviewed January 2012), Queen Elizabeth Competition prize-winner Hannes Minnaar has assembled a programme of music either based on or inspired by JS Bach. He at once establishes his Bachian credentials with a reading of Liszt’s transcription of the A minor Prelude and Fugue BWV 543 that combines a sense of inspirational fantasy with unfailing structural flair. His golden touch and linear sensitivity highlights the music’s internal logic, yet like a true Romantic he creates the impression that underlying Bach’s contrapuntal wizardry is a compelling emotional narrative.
Liszt takes full creative honours with his Fantasia and Fugue on
B-A-C-H homage, and Minnaar hurls himself into the fray with thrilling abandon, offsetting speaker-shaking resonances with gently whispered asides, culminating in a devil-may-care fugue of insatiable forward momentum. Still more remarkable is a magical account of Franck’s Prélude, Choral et Fugue, in which the composer’s sometimes awkward finger-patterns dissolve into radiant textural shimmerings of Debussyan allure.
Minnaar’s exceptional ability to conjure up a potent soundworld in just a few notes pays special dividends in a series of transcriptions by Busoni, Bauer, Vaughan Williams and Grainger, culminating in a joyously exultant reading of Rachmaninov’s realisation of Bach’s Violin Partita No. 3.