Bach: Piano Transcriptions, Vol. 4: arrangements by Samuil Feinberg (complete)

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LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Piano Transcriptions, Vol. 4
WORKS: Piano Transcriptions, Vol. 4: arrangements by Samuil Feinberg (complete)
PERFORMER: Martin Roscoe (piano)
Vol. 4 of Hyperion’s series devoted to Bach piano transcriptions focuses on the legacy of pianist and composer Samuel Feinberg (1890-1962). Feinberg was a lifelong exponent of Bach’s keyboard works (his extraordinary Well-Tempered Clavier belongs in all serious piano collections), and transcribed a number of organ works for piano solo. Pride of place are 13 chorale preludes, which challenge performers to sustain legato melodies effortlessly and elaborate textures in distant registers. His transcriptions of ‘Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland’ and ‘Jesus Christus, unser Heiland’, for example, provide more phrasing and dynamic instructions than Busoni’s better-known, relatively unadorned versions. Feinberg points Bach’s A minor Concerto after Vivaldi (BWV 593) towards its original orchestral dimensions, albeit with subtly modernised harmonic alterations and rapid leaping chords that show no mercy for mortal pianists. Similarly, the E minor Prelude and Fugue, BWV 548, proves more opulent than Liszt’s altogether leaner transcription. The aforementioned works seem tailormade to Martin Roscoe’s ability to conjure huge sonorities that never bang or splinter, together with his cannily varied articulations. However, Roscoe’s straitlaced and metrically steady readings of the Largo from the Trio Sonata No. 5 and the three ‘Allein Gott in der Höh sei Her’ settings sound literal and perfunctory next to Feinberg’s more fluid, vocally oriented and ravishingly shaded performances (once available on BMG/Melodiya but sadly now deleted). Certainly the playful counterpoint throughout ‘Wen nur den lieben Gott lässt walten’ benefits from the greater animation and character Feinberg brings to it, as opposed to Roscoe’s sober moderation. Interpretive quibbles aside, Roscoe’s formidable mastery deserves serious consideration. Jed Distler