Bach: Piano Transcriptions, Vol. 3: by Friedman, Grainger & Murdoch

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Piano Transcriptions, Vol. 3: by Friedman, Grainger & Murdoch
PERFORMER: Piers Lane (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67344
Vol. 3 of Hyperion’s Bach transcription cycle takes leave of Busoni’s efforts in the genre for a detour down-under, so to speak. As Anglo-Australian pianist Piers Lane states in his booklet notes, Polish-born Ignaz Friedman spent his last years in Australia and taught many important Australian musicians. Friedman’s exact contemporary Percy Grainger was just as individual and idiosyncratic a pianist, and, of course, one of Australia’s most important composers. By contrast, their younger colleague William Murdoch, kept a lower profile.

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It is interesting to hear Friedman’s versions of Bach favourites in the context of better-known counterparts. In ‘Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme’, for instance, Friedman serves up a higher density of textural elaboration than Busoni’s plainer setting, although he more or less mirrors Busoni’s gothic restraint in ‘Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland’. Murdoch’s transcription of Bach’s reworking of Vivaldi’s D minor Concerto (BWV 596) waves its Romantic coat-tails in the grand manner. Grainger’s transcriptions of the A minor (Book 1) and E major (Book 2) Fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavier start simply, only to grow louder and denser at each structural signpost. Grainger’s unabashed love for Delius’s music seeps through the lush harmonies of ‘Blithe Bells’ (based on ‘Sheep May Safely Graze’) while Friedman presents a reading closer to the original. Grainger’s and Friedman’s respectively brawny and elegant refashionings of the ubiquitous D minor Toccata and Fugue neatly bookend the programme.

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Lane commands the golden tone and effortless, spirited virtuosity needed to make these transcriptions come alive, and makes them sound easy to boot. A honey of a release.