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Respighi had always been committed to the art of transcription, arranging Bach’s Violin Sonata in E minor in 1908-09 with acute perception. This was followed during 1929 and 1930 by even greater and more resplendent Bach settings. The powerful sense of orchestral colour acquired during his training under Rimsky-Korsakov is heard to bold yet subtle effect in the Three Chorale Preludes. The Prelude and Fugue in D major is even more gloriously lavish, drawing on the full resources of the modern symphony orchestra, as does the brilliantly realised Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor. Edward Elgar’s transcription is a work of sustained grandeur and rich musical intensity.
Respighi’s most famous transcriptions are probably still those of the ancient airs and dances, first published in 1917, but his Bach transcriptions are hardly less impressive. These richly coloured works rescore and reclothe Bach for Respighi’s time – 1929-30 – and do so brilliantly. They are exciting creations in their own terms, utilising every facet of a modern symphony orchestra, and so too is Elgar’s sole example.
Ottorino Respighi: Bach - 3 chorales, P. 167
No. 1. Lento assai (after J.S. Bach's Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 659)
No. 2. Andante con moto e scherzando (after J.S. Bach's Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn, BWV 648)
No. 3. Andante (after J.S. Bach's Wachet auf ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 645)
Ottorino Respighi: Bach - Violin Sonata in E minor, P. 85 (after J.S. Bach's BWV 1023)
II. Adagio, ma non tanto
III. Allemanda: Allegro moderato
IV. Giga: Vivace assai
Ottorino Respighi: Bach - Prelude and Fugue in D major, P. 158 (after J.S. Bach's BWV 532)
Prelude: Allegro - Meno mosso - Alla breve [Allegro] - Adagio
Ottorino Respighi: Bach - Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, P. 159 (after J.S. Bach's BWV 582)
Bach - Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, P. 159 (after J.S. Bach's BWV 582)
Edward Elgar: Bach - Fantasy and Fugue in C minor, Op. 86 (after J.S. Bach's BWV 537)
“This is a delightful hour of listening, and for those of you who are weary of “historically-informed” Bach, this could be your disc of the year!...This might not be “authentic” Bach, but it is magnificent Bach.”
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