Bach/Busoni transcriptions Toccata in C for organ BWV 564

Bach/Busoni transcriptions Toccata in C for organ BWV 564; 10 chorale preludes for organ BWV 667, 645, 659, 734, 639, 665, 615, 617, 637, 705; Chaconne from Partita No 2 for violin BWV 1004

KUN-WOO PAIK (piano)DECCA 467 358-2
TPT 01:10:35

reviewed by Neville Cohn

Every once in a while – very rarely, in fact – one encounters a recording that is so ennobling, so life-affirming, that it makes an indelible impression on the psyche. This is such a performance – of transcriptions for the piano by one of the early twentieth century’s keyboard giants Ferruccio Busoni of various organ works by Bach as well as the “Chaconne” from the Partita in D minor for unaccompanied violin.

Only seconds into the first track, it becomes emphatically clear that one is listening to a Master, functioning as impressively from the heart as the mind. With an unassailable keyboard technique, the ability to focus on finest detail without for a moment losing sight of the grand design of whatever is being essayed, and, time and again, to awe the ear with the cumulative grandeur of each offering, Kun-Woo Paik stakes his claim – and who would gainsay it? -to pianistic greatness.

With an opening flourish of authority and power that would not have been out of place as an accompaniment to the Second Coming, measure after magnificent measure of the Toccata in C unfolds to dazzling effect. Unerringly, Pack mines this rich musical lode to produce a performance that gives new meaning to the word ‘noble’. Although much of this work is so difficult, whether in its original state or in Busoni’s transcription, as to make it a closed book to any but the most formidably gifted of musicians, Pack sounds in his element, without any hint of strain or rush whatever . It is an astonishing achievement.


The rest of the disc is a catalogue of marvels, not least “In dir ist Freude”, its heroic measure which comes across in heroic terms – and in “Nun freut euch”, a left hand melody booms magisterially to rapidly running treble passagework; it’s a little miracle of control and musicianship. So, too, is “Wachet auf”, presented with a simplicity that is the preserve of those few fortunate pianists who, like Kun-Woo Paik, have been touched by the little finger of God. Doubt it? Then listen to his version of the Chaconne in D minor; it ought to melt the stoniest heart.

  • Kun-Woo Paik was born in Seoul, Korea. He made his debut aged 10 years playing Grieg’s Piano Concerto with the Korean National Orchestra. Later, he studied with Rosina Lhevinne at the Juilliard School in New York. He was the first Korean artist to be officially invited by the Chinese government to perform in China.

He now lives in Paris.

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