Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Eugene Ormandy – The Bach Album

   Johann Sebastian Bach is the one of very few genius composers. His work and personality occupy a dominant position in the discourse about the history of music, although this recognition came after almost a century of oblivion. He was in group of many baroque composers losing their position with the change of musical esthetics in 18th century. Composer was working as the cantor of St. Thomas Church and great part of his work was connected with religious services. After his death, his oldest son Carl Philipp Emanuel, a great composer himself, was trying to do some fashionable improvements in some works looking too much out of date. He was also author of first monographic book about his father. Later Bach’s music was revised and rewritten by many and in various ways. Most popular were always transcriptions for solo instruments and for orchestra.
   Among many composers, instrumentalists and conductors were reworking Bach’s compositions. Many transcriptions were made because of lacking original repertoire for new performing meanings. Probably the first transcriber was composer himself. He made number of alternative versions for other composers and some of his own works. The long list of Bach’s rearrangements starts with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart transcribing some Bach’s fugues for Gottfried van Swieten who was famous collector of Bach’s and Handel’s manuscripts. Later in romantic era most active transcriber was Franz Liszt, but some Bach’s works were reworked by Johannes Brahms, Charles Gounod, Ferrucio Busoni and Francisco Tarrega. Later, in modern music of 20th century, Bach’s works were transcribed by Sergei Rachmaninoff, Edward Elgar, Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky, Anton Webern and many others.

Eugene Ormandy – The Bach Album

   Transcriptions for symphony orchestra have significant position in philharmonic repertoire. Most famous conductors transcribing Bach’s music were Leopold Stokowski and Eugene Ormandy. In 1970 Columbia Records published The Bach Album included Ormandy recordings with The Philadelphia Orchestra. The program of this album comprises set of other artists arrangements William Smith (Arioso, Fugues in G MinorThe Little and The Great, Preludium in E Major), Lucien Cailliet (Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring), Arthur Harris (A Mighty Fortress is Our God), William Walton (Sheep May Safely Graze), Jesse Taynton (Come, Sweet Death) and Little Suite from Anna Magdalena Notebook by Thomas Frost who was also producer of the album. One fragment Air on the G String (Air from Suite No. 3) was played in its original set.
   More advanced parts of the program are arrangements by Eugene Ormandy: Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, Sleepers Awake and Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C Major. Massive sound of The Philadelphia Orchestra and romantic model of emotional interpretations gave these recordings the value of documentary. The fact is these recordings are not even close to what we know about baroque esthetics, but it is still music connected with culture of late sixties. Well crafted experience in what was believed Bach did for orchestral music, but it deserves no more than three out of five stars.

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