Sound 10/10 - Booklet 9/10 - Repertoire 10/10 - Interpretation 10/10
Orchestrating, arranging, and appropriating the works of another — particularly those of Johann Sebastien Bach, the uncontested genius of western music — can either be completely iconoclastic (and for some people, arranging is, in principle, iconoclastic), or a revelation of the timeless, astonishing quality of the original work. The transcriptions on this recording are, happily, of the second kind. The conductors and composers who made them were active mainly during the 20th century. To color the master's scores, they made good use of all the orchestral diversity and opulence at their disposal. Thus, Stokowski made ample use of strings and horns to magnify ten-fold the drama and grandeur of the superb Toccata and Fugue in D minor. Webern enriched the notoriously austere Ricercata of The Musical Offering, and gives it new life by distributing its melody among several instruments according to the principle of Klangfarbenmelodie. Holst delicately manipulated his Fugue à la gigue, based on Bach's Organ Fugue in G Major, until it reached catharsis.
Other transcriptions, more Baroque in spirit, include Talmi's light and virtuosic orchestration of the Italian Concerto in F Major, and Walton's arrangement of extracts from cantatas and a organ choral prelude to make the ballet suite The Wise Virgins. Under the direction of Yoav Talmi — who, in January 2007, experimented in a similar way with the works of Claude Debussy —the Orchestre Symphonique de Québec exults in this repertoire. It succeeds in finding and keeping the delicate balance between fidelity to the refinement, density, and transparency of what Bach wrote, and to the personal styles of the various orchestrators, and avoids getting bogged down in the overly Romantic vigor of the not-so-distant past. A treat to be savored without hesitation.
Carine Seron, Crescendo, No 96.