Francesco Piemontesi piano
Pentatone PTC 5186 846
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On this CD Francesco Piemontesi plays mainly transcriptions of Bach by the 19th-/20th-century composer and piano virtuoso Ferruccio Busoni, as well as one transcription each by pianist Wilhelm Kempff and organist Egon Petri, an homage by Busoni to Bach and even some straight Bach, albeit on the piano. A thoughtful programme note tries to put this music in the context of its time, when the concept of authentic performance had not yet been conceived of, and performers from Mendelssohn to Liszt felt free to adapt, arrange and otherwise muck about with earlier music under the guise of bringing it to a wider audience. We would recall Mendelssohn’s ‘performance edition’ of Bach’s St Matthew Passion with its clarinets and its string quartet renditions of continuo recitative accompaniments. Nowadays it is deeply out of fashion to meddle too much with earlier musical sources, the idea of playing Baroque music on a modern piano being perhaps a dying vestige of a previous attitude. It can hardly be surprising that as a child of the HIP movement, I find Bach on the piano, let alone transcribed for the piano, a bit of a musical cul-de-sac. Interesting to find a CD where these transcriptions themselves are treated as a historical phenomenon, and where they are performed with a HIP perspective. Busoni’s own Toccata is an interesting example of Bach through the looking glass, and we would perhaps recall Bach’s own transcriptions of earlier music – how would Vivaldi have felt hearing his violin concertos arranged for clutches of harpsichords?
D. James Ross