Bach/Rummel

COMPOSERS: Bach/Rummel
LABELS: Hyperion
ALBUM TITLE: Bach/Rummel
WORKS: Bach Piano Transcriptions, Vol. 6: Walter Rummel (complete)
PERFORMER: Jonathan Plowright (piano)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67491-2
Berlin-born of a British father and American mother, Walter Rummel – disciple of Busoni, friend and champion of Debussy – seems to have known all the greatest musicians of his time, and was accepted as a player of the highest powers and breadth of repertoire (his biography was reviewed in the Proms 2005 edition). Deeply religious, his early Calvinism had turned to Anthroposophy by the time he completed his 25 Bach ‘adaptations’ in 1922. Hyperion’s two-CD set presents them all: Charles Timbrell’s notes observe that they initiate a new stage in the history of Bach transcription, Whereas previous arrangers concentrated on JSB’s instrumental works, Rummel’s are almost all of choruses and arias from the cantatas, whose textural complexity required him to condense as many as eight simultaneous lines under the hands.

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Some – such as O Gott, du frommer Gott (Cantata 94) – are taxing showpieces, and the high point of the series is undoubtedly Die Seele ruht in Jesu Händen, where Bach’s aria (from Cantata 127) is transformed into a 12-minute tone-poem of amazing textural and spiritual richness. Amazing too is Jonathan Plowright’s ability to project these pieces while keeping every voice and nuance in balance. These are performances of rare identification and understanding, making this a very special release in Hyperion’s Bach Piano Transcriptions series.

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Calum MacDonald