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Transcriptions - The Titfield Thunderbolt
Heisenberg might have stayed here
It's not my intention to write reviews of every CD in my collection, but a Christmas gift of Bach Transcriptions with the BBC Philharmonic and Leonard Slatkin is worthy of comment. I added this to my Amazon Wish List some time after hearing Andrew Davis' orchestration of Bach's Passacaglia and Fugue BWV582 at the Proms a couple of years ago. I wasn't all that taken with Davis' work, finding the restrained opening particularly weak. The programme notes made reference to a number of other arrangements of the work, including one by Respighi. I have the original organ piece in my Peter Hurford set, and kharin already had the Stokowski version.

Respighi's version is a musical drag queen, completely over-the-top in its orchestration, but it works very well indeed. It probably won't appeal to purists, but then again, transcriptions never do. There's a range of Bach works on the disc, all transcribed by different composers - Honneger and Schoenberg being among the rather unexpected. For me, it isn't a question of improving on the original - that just isn't possible with Bach - but of re-imagining it, like a variation or a counter-factual. It's not about imitation either, but paying homage and seeing another view by standing on the shoulders of giants.


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