CD Review: Nelson Friere Bach


Brazilian pianist Nelson Friere has added to his extensive discography with an album of selected works by JS Bach called Nelson Friere Bach. (Decca Classics 4788449).

It is noteworthy because it is Friere’s first album dedicated solely to the music of Bach, it includes works written for the keyboard as well as transcriptions from other genres by important transcribers including Bach himself and the selections represent some significant landmarks in Bach’s catalogue of works.

From Bach’s keyboard repertoire, Friere performs the Partita no 4 in D major, BWV 828, said to contain “matured specimens of the most popular harpsichord genre of the time” (Oxford Dictionary of Music), and one of the longest of the Six Partitas; the Toccata in C minor, BWV 911, another of the longest and most improvisatory of the collection, the mighty Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor BWV 903 and the English Suite no 3 in G minor, BWV 808. It is not stated on what kind of piano Friere has recorded this album, but the colours he achieves in this repertoire are clear, bright and well articulated, vividly evoking the sounds of the harpsichord.

Transcriptions are an important facet of Bach’s music. He transcribed both his own compositions and those of others; as well, other musicians through the centuries were inspired transcribe his works. In homage to these derivatives, Friere has included the Adagio from Bach’s highly embellished transcription of his contemporary Alessandro Marcello’s (1673 – 1747) Concerto for Oboe and Strings which became Bach’s Concerto in D minor for harpsichord, BWV 974.  This is followed by works written for the organ the Prelude in G minor from BWV 535, transcribed by Ukrainian- American pianist and composer Alexander Siloti (1863 – 1945) and two more famous and highly respected re-inventions of Bach’s originals – Busoni’s treatment of the chorale Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ BWV 639 and Myra Hess’ Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring from Cantata No. 147; as well, chorales from Komm, Gott Schöpfer, heiliger Geist, BWV 667 and Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 659.

In these transcriptions, chameleon like, Friere moves away from the style of the harpsichord and emulates the instruments for which the pieces were written – a legato worthy of the oboe and string orchestra and a richly sustained resonance that well evokes the majesty and rich resonance of the organ.

The CD liner has a wealth of information compiled by New York pianist, composer and writer Jed Distler. The CD was recorded in August 2015 at the Friedrich-Ebert-Halle in Harburg.

Nelson Friere Bach is an innovative exploration of Bach’s original and transcribed works, played by a performer who has a wealth of experience, great insight into elements of style, technique and versatility.

Shamistha de Soysa for SoundsLikeSydney©


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