This disc is part of a series of releases devoted to Godowsky by the Russian-trained and now Swiss-based pianist Konstantin Scherbakov. An exponent of the fiery Russian school, Scherbakov cut his eyeteeth with some well-regarded Rachmaninov and has won acclaim for his handling of the piano acrobatics of Godowsky, a Polish-American virtuoso of the early twentieth century who pushed the piano to its limits. Here he takes on the considerable challenge of Godowsky's transcriptions of Bach's solo cello suites, odd works whose difficulties are more interpretive than technical. Transcribing these works for piano might seem to miss their point in a fundamental way, for a good portion of their appeal in their original form derives from the way Bach manages to imply whole realms of counterpoint with just a single line of cello music, augmented by double and triple stops. Godowsky fills in all the counterpoint. He described these works as versions of Bach's suites "very freely transcribed and adapted for the pianoforte," and one might even go farther and call them fantasies based on the Bach solo cello suites. They hold to the essential melodic material and harmonic structure of Bach's works, but texture, decoration, and the makeup of individual harmonies are all fair game. He builds linear structures by adding greater or lesser amounts of embroidery to Bach's material, and there are points where even a listener well versed in the Bach suites would be hard-pressed to identify the source.Scherbakov does best where Godowsky writes sharp, commanding contrasts into the music, as in the pair of Gavottes in the Suite No. 5 in C minor, BWV 1011 (track 5). In some of the longer movements he doesn't quite seem comfortable with Godowsky's balancing act between Bach and late Romantic pianism, and there's a tentative quality to his playing. Scherbakov isn't helped by sound that seems to somewhat compress the dynamic range of his playing. Recordings of these works have been rare, however, and this one fits in with a host of other reissues of the mid-2000s period that touched on the fascinating issue of what Bach meant to audiences of 100 years ago, when other Baroque composers, Handel excepted, were known only to scholars laboring over editions in ivory towers. Anyone interested in the great touring pianists of the post-Romantic era will find this a worthwhile and unusual collection addition.
|Suite for solo cello No. 5 in C minor, BWV 1011|
|Prelude and Fugue||Konstantin Scherbakov||7:47|
|Gavotte 1 & 2||Konstantin Scherbakov||5:24|
|Suite for solo cello No. 2 in D minor, BWV 1008|
|Minuet 1 & 2||Konstantin Scherbakov||4:43|
|Suite for solo cello No. 3 in C major, BWV 1009|
|Bourrée 1 & 2||Konstantin Scherbakov||4:31|