Tag Archives: Bach

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.


Diane Doherty (oboe)
Sinfonia Australis
Mark Summerbell (conductor)

ABC Classics 980 046-3
TPT: 1:11:44

reviewed by Neville Cohn



This collection of miniatures for the oboe provides almost untrammelled listening pleasure. A joy from start to finish, this is a recital that many a lesser oboist would give eye-teeth to emulate. Because Doherty is blessed with extraordinary control of an instrument that is notoriously temperamental, she is freed from the physical constraints lesser musicians might labour under so that she can give full attention to interpretative aspects of the performance.souvenir

The pieces here recorded are beautifully presented, rather like a chaplet of gems, each stone finely facetted and mounted. Listen to Piazzolla’s Oblivion coming across, nostalgia-laced, in a way that haunts the mind. Another delight is the Andante from J.C.Bach’s Sinfonia Concertante in E flat. As it unfolds – and this would apply to just about the entire compilation – it generates such a ‘come-hither’ quality that it leaves one with the impression that, had Doherty walked down some highway while demonstrating her wizardry on the oboe, it would surely have attracted anyone hearing it to follow her, Pied Piper-fashion.

Ross Edwards’ Love Duet from his Oboe Concerto is another delight, with Doherty adapting chameleon-like to music that oscillates between the sensuous and the achingly poignant. There are beautifully synchronised cor anglais figurations
from Alexandre Oguey, who is clearly a musician to be reckoned with. He is also Diane Doherty’s husband! In performance, a line note explains that instead of the soloist standing in front of the orchestra, as is customarily the case, Doherty here moves to a position alongside her husband which gives a charming romantic dimension to the duet. He teams up with Doherty again in another Oz-generated jewel: Ross Edwards’ Love Duet from his Oboe Concerto. This exquisite, instantly accessible miniature makes for compelling listening with its washes of harp tone and quasi mid-eastern harmonies that call the sound tracks of some of Cecil B. de Mille’s biblical movie epics to mind, all complementing Doherty’s sinuous and sensuous oboe line.

And in Carl Vine’s Love Me Sweet, Doherty’s playing is an object lesson in what lyrical oboe playing is all about. Another delight is the ubiquitous Maria from Bernstein’s West Side Story, not least for an impeccable, light-textured accompaniment against which Doherty traces a faultless oboe line.A Bach adagio in C minor is less convincing, its pace too brisk for so gentle an utterance.

© 2004 Neville Cohn




Christmas Oratorio (J.S.Bach)

Christmas Oratorio (J.S.Bach)


University of Western Australia Choral Society

Winthrop Hall

reviewed by Neville Cohn 

Unlike Handel’s Messiah which, for many choristers and concertgoers, is inextricably associated with Xmas (even though barely a quarter of it relates to the Nativity story), Bach’s Christmas Oratorio is entirely concerned with events surrounding the birth of Christ.

Because Handel’s masterpiece is so frequently mounted in Perth, it is ingrained in the musical psyche of many, if not most, choristers who might well be able to sing much of it from memory.

Not so the Christmas Oratorio which, unaccountably (because it is one of the most meaningful and sheerly beautiful meditations on the Nativity), is only very rarely heard locally. And if in many of Bach’s choruses, attack was tentative, it might well have been due to lack of familiarity with a difficult score on the part of the singers ­ and possibly not quite enough rehearsal time to build up confidence. Inner vocal lines were not always as clear and carefully pitched as one might have hoped.

For all this, there was much that gave pleasure in the choruses that dot the score, largely due to John Beaverstock’s excellent choice of tempi – and an often pleasingly responsive orchestra. Apart from the opening movement, one of Bach’s most superb celebratory essays, in which the pace adopted was far too fast to allow its inherent joyousness to register satisfyingly on the consciousness, Beaverstock’s pace-setting was almost beyond criticism. In Glory be to God, an upbeat tempo and delightfully light choral textures combined to ravishing effect.

But it was in the work’s many chorales that the UWA Choral Society came into its own. There is a gravitas about many of these episodes that very effectively counter-balances the unsullied happiness that informs so much of the other writing for chorus. Here, too, Beaverstock’s tempi were beyond reproach. And the good, sturdy pace at which Rejoice and Sing was taken sounded entirely right.

Throughout, a small orchestra did wonders in support of both chorus and vocal soloists. It was a particularly good night for the trumpeters, with Jenny Coleman leading her sub-section with distinction, their silvery-toned fanfares and tricky high-register outbursts gauged to a nicety. This was especially evident in the introduction to Lord, when our Haughty Foe, given a gloriously ecstatic edge by the trumpeters.

There was a deal of fine horn playing, notably from Darryl Poulsen. And oboists, apart from some weakening of concentration in the introduction to part 2, were much on their mettle.

Of the vocal soloists, soprano Emma Pearson, after a tentative start, gave impressive evidence of growing vocal confidence. In Nought against the Power, she scaled the heights, producing a stream of ringing vocal tone that projected effortlessly into the auditorium. This was deeply affecting singing. And she came into her own yet again in the famous echo aria ­ Ah! My Saviour ­ clothing each phrase in glowing tone to which oboes responded beautifully; Katja Webb very effectively contributed the echo effect. Alto Emma Foster was clearly unwell but soldiered on gamely until the end. And although Stuart Haycock as the Evangelist brought pleasing clarity of diction to his many recitatives, there was a tendency to strain and force the tone. Baritone Andrew Moran sang with sense and sensibility.

© December 2003