Bach Chaconne in D minor (from Partita in D minor, BWV. 1004), trans. Middelschulte; Prelude and Fugue in B flat minor, BWV. 897 (from Das Wohltempierte Klavier), trans. Merikanto; Prelude in A minor (from English Suite No. 2, BWV. 807), trans. Merikanto; Prelude in G minor (from English Suite No. 3, BWV. 808), trans. Merikanto; Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue in D minor, BWV. 903, trans. Reger; Widor Bach’s Memento
Jan Lehtola (organ)
Alba ABCD 233 (74 minutes)
When I first picked up this CD, I thought that here was yet another Bach recital, the sort of run-of-the-mill release you have to expect to deal with as part of a reviewer’s life. But a closer look revealed something far from the ordinary: Jan Lehtola has chosen his programme very cleverly from other composers’ transcriptions of Bach, three of the six here being by Oskar Merikanto, three of whose Bach transcriptions were published in his lifetime; these three are unpublished.
Coupled with Middelschulte’s version of Busoni’s piano recasting of the D minor Chaconne (which is not BWV. 1081, as Lehtola claims in his booklet essay – that’s a choral Credo), Reger’s of the Chromatic Fantasia and Fugue (an astonishing re-hearing of the music) and Widor’s realisation of six Bach numbers in a suite called Bach’s Memento (more hands-on than the other arrangements, but it ends with a corking realisation of the closing chorus from the St Matthew Passion), they make a CD which is refreshingly different.
The organ is that of church of Kuusankoski, in south-eastern Finland; it was erected in 1933, to a design by Aarne Wegelius, who had studied the organ with Merikanto. Lehtola writes that ‘I cannot imagine a more fitting instrument for recording the works on this disc’ – it certainly rings out with a mixture of clarity and strength.