Few composers have had their music rearranged with such variety and a high degree of success as Johann Sebastian Bach. Mozart, Elgar and Webern, Mendelsohn, Brahms and Vaughan Williams and countless others, not to mention jazz musicians such as Jacques Loussier, Dave Brubeck, the Swingle Singers and even the rock band Procul Harum all rearranged his music. This gem of a disc, originally released on ASV, presents more than a dozen of Bach’s pieces rearranged for the piano, from the familiar (Myra Hess’s arrangement of Jesu, joy of man’s desiring) to the quirky (Lord Berners’ arrangement of In dulci jubilo) and from the sonorously imposing (the famous Chaconne from the Second Partita in the Busoni arrangement) to the vertiginous (Busoni again, with ‘Nun freut euch, lieben Christen’). Most of the composer-arrangers on this recording were themselves professional concert pianists and, in most cases, believed that their function was not to assert their own musical personalities on top of, or alongside, Bach’s so much as to try to recreate, as well as possible, what Bach might have written had he been alive at the time when the transcriptions were made.
“the simple and relatively literal transcriptions of ‘Jesu joy’ (Cantata No. 147), the flute Siciliano and ‘Sheep may safely graze’ [are] all played with calm grace … and at the other extreme of the art of transcription, Rachmaninov’s very free version of movements from the E major Violin Partita … in which Fergus-Thompson shows delicious delicacy.” Gramophone