Bach-Busoni

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COMPOSERS: Bach-Busoni
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Fantasia, Adagio and Fugue, BWV 906/968; Chaconne in D minor, BWV 1004; Chorale Preludes; Preludes and Fugues in D, BWV 532, & in E minor, BWV 533
PERFORMER: Nikolai Demidenko (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67324
In his lifetime, Busoni was a good deal more famous for his Bach transcriptions than as a composer

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in his own right – so much so that during an extended American tour in 1915 his wife was introduced on more than one occasion as ‘Mrs Bach-Busoni’. The best known, and in many ways the most successful, of the pieces included in this second volume of Nikolai Demidenko’s survey of the repertoire is the solo violin Chaconne in D minor, which Busoni works up into a grandiose keyboard monument, but one that is at the same time wholly faithful to the spirit of Bach’s work. Also associated with the unaccompanied violin works is a Fantasia, Adagio and Fugue – a composite piece whose rather lugubrious middle movement derives from a keyboard version (itself possibly not authentic) of the opening Adagio from Bach’s C major Sonata.

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Nikolai Demidenko performs all the music here with admirable devotion, though there are moments – the D major Prelude & Fugue, BWV 532, with its tongue-in-cheek fugue subject, is a case in point – where a lighter touch might have been welcome. But even here the powerful climax is most impressively handled, and the playing itself, as throughout this enterprising recital, cannot be faulted. Misha Donat