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Busoni worked on his transcription of Bach’s Chaconne while living in Boston between and (Alamy Stock Photo). JS Bach’s. Such was my fascination with his playing of the Bach-Busoni Chaconne that I pestered him many times about his mercurial way of performing it. At best, he. “Her piano playing bears the mark of three great pianists who formed her and of whom she managed to create an improbable synthesis: the panache of Martha.

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Many of his finest string compositions date from this time, including the Six Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin. If I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the excess of excitement and earth-shattering experience would have driven me out chaconnr my mind. It requires not just a pair of busy and accomplished hands, but also a level of artistry that can fuse architectural savvy, sustaining power and poetic introspection.

Busoni worked on his transcription bussoni living in Boston between and For years Busoni continued to refine the text, and the revised version brought out in is the one most frequently favoured.

Bach-Busoni Editions – Wikipedia

Some of his bqch, however, is surprisingly slapdash and casual. The staggering evenness, tonal sheen and sense of direction informing his unison scales and rapid runs still beggar belief after 70 years. Where Michelangeli pushes forwards, Cherkassky lingers, sometimes to the point of fidgeting, yet he never makes an ugly sound. Rubinstein being Rubinstein, one should expect those patented turns of phrase: The steel-edged patina of his sonority grows unattractively clangorous and even brutal at fortissimo levels, with more than a few instances of overpedalling.


The fingerwork, of course, conveys clockwork accuracy. She whips up momentous crescendos and some of the most fiery unison runs in history, ubsoni managing to sustain caconne booming basses and majestic pedal points via her masterful pedalling.

Her digital remake is more magisterial and conventional by comparison, and, to my mind, not as interesting.

Here Bolet chose the Chaconne as his opening salvo, and served it up in hearty, rhetorical arcs. Encountering her recording in preparing for this survey was a pleasant surprise.

Listeners will find her additional levels of intensity either exhilarating or exhausting, her large sound less enveloping than penetrating. Note, for example, how powerful pedal points sonorously open up and gorgeously congeal without the slightest banging. In turn, the pianist milks sustained lyrical diminuendos with ravishing pedal effects.

Like them or not, Kempf or Pletnev are pianists for whom no barrier exists between ideation and execution. He milks most soft passages, and rides the sweeping loud paragraphs like a confident surfer chsconne one big wave after another. Her generally rhapsodic approach embraces sudden chwconne of voicing, changes in colour and abch accents.

When I revisited his Chaconne on his solo debut release Signumthe detailed deliberation that once impressed me seemed studied and self-aware. I prefer his altogether swifter and more fluid live remake from Brighton.

The subtle melodic inflections that he brings out within the staccato octaves and repeated chords, for example, tend to elude other pianists. One can carp about Grosvenor telegraphing dynamics or reversing them, while his ritardandos at cadence points and phrase ends tend towards the generic and predictable.


Yet these are quibbles, not criticisms. Reyes sculpts the music with patient deliberation and a carefully scaled dynamic scheme where the peaks and valleys assiduously feed in and out of one another. That leaves Michelangeli out of the running, yet occupying a class of his own in an ivory pun intended tower looking down on most mortal piano players.

If I want a dark and intimate tone poem, I put on Reyes. Yet repeated hearings reveal carefully contoured textures, assiduous transitions and other elements that reflect high levels of both technical and musical precision. This article originally appeared in the Award issue of Gramophone magazine.

The Gramophone Collection: Busoni’s transcription of Bach’s Chaconne

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