Inspired by Bach

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Bach arr. Kodaly,Beethoven,Brahms,JS Bach,Reger,Schachtner
LABELS: Nimbus
ALBUM TITLE: Inspired by Bach
WORKS: Works by JS Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Reger, Schachtner, Bach arr. Kodály
PERFORMER: Julius Berger (cello), Oliver Kern (piano)


Julius Berger has evidently thought long and hard about the most effective way with which to connect Bach’s music to some central works in the cello repertory. The solution he has come up with is both imaginative and thought-provoking. Two particular highlights are the compelling and strongly delineated performance of Reger’s somewhat knotty A minor Sonata and a warmly expressive account of Kodály’s arrangement of a Prelude and Fugue in D minor. Throughout both discs, there are some beautifully stylised transcriptions of Bach’s chorale preludes and cantata arias, all of which bear some fascinating and unexpected thematic links to the more extended works.

The first of these is undoubtedly going to be controversial since Berger gives us what purports to be the Brahms E minor Sonata in its original conception as a four-movement work. To achieve this, he has accepted the opinion of several musicologists that the movement Brahms suppressed from the work was in fact the Adagio which later featured in the F major Cello Sonata Op. 99. Once you get over the shock of the Minuet not following the opening Allegro, the appearance at this juncture of the Adagio, here transposed down a semitone, makes perfect musical sense, even if the composer subsequently rejected the idea.


Berger has another surprise up his sleeve by featuring the original and texturally rather different version of the first movement of Beethoven’s A major Cello Sonata. Its presence is fully justified by the intriguing thematic connection that exists between the melancholic melody that dominates the development section in the Beethoven and the aria ‘Es ist vollbracht’ from the St John Passion. Erik Levi