Godowsky: Transcriptions of Bach’s Sonata No. 1; Sonata No. 2; Partita No. 1 for Solo Violin

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COMPOSERS: Godowsky
LABELS: Music & Arts
WORKS: Transcriptions of Bach’s Sonata No. 1; Sonata No. 2; Partita No. 1 for Solo Violin
PERFORMER: Carlo Grante (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CD 1039
Leopold Godowsky (1870-1938), in the spirit of Bach, Liszt and Busoni, was one of the great transcribers of history. He believed passionately in the medium: ‘a transcription, an arrangement, a paraphrase, when conceived by a creative mind, is an entity, which in its own worth may prove a masterpiece.’ His Bach (from BWV 1001-03), like his Schubert songs, is about complex genius; the Passacaglia (on a theme from the Unfinished Symphony), bridging transcription and composition, aspires to monumentality: its 44 variations, epilogue, cadenza and double fugue pose a keyboard challenge that even had Horowitz defeated.

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Grante has the technical measure of this music. But, compared with Hamelin (CBC Enterprises 1987) or de Waal (Hyperion 1991), his Schubert is charmless, wanting in line, phrasing and beauty of tone, especially at slower speeds. ‘Das Wandern’ and ‘Die Forelle’ could not be more unattractive. Under-produced (notwithstanding the artistic supervision of Godowsky’s son), his belligerence, forcing of issues, undulating tempo, and hammered-home climaxes render the larger-scaled Passacaglia and Bach at a structural and emotional price. You need more than facility, big piano sound and an appetite for notes and mechanics to do this repertoire justice – time and space, not least. Beware pedal/damper noise generally, plus a channel shift at 6:14 of the Passacaglia. Ates Orga