All four works on this disc rely on existing compositions, with titles that more or less specifically refer to this fact. In the case of Rachmaninov’s Corelli Variations, it is the famous theme used by Corelli in his violin sonata La Follia which undergoes a radical pianistic treatment taking it through all the sonic and atmospheric possibilities offered by the instrument.
With his celebrated transcription of Bach’s Chaconne, Ferruccio Busoni had a very different aim, wanting to shed new light on the work without actually changing it. As he himself wrote, Bach taught him ‘to recognize the truth that good, great and universal music remains the same, regardless of whatever means through which it resounds.’ A virtuoso pianist, Busoni nonetheless had recourse to great skills in writing idiomatically for the instrument, and turned his transcription into a truly pianistic work.
Ravel’s collection of waltzes was composed as a nod to Schubert, who in 1823 had written two collections of waltzes, the Valses nobles and Valses sentimentales. In no way is it possible to call the work a pastiche, however – in it Ravel shows the range of his musical palette, in a manner that caused Debussy to call his ear ‘the most refined that has ever existed’.
Finally, Stravinsky’s Three movements from Petrushka is the composer’s arrangement of music from his own ballet, commissioned by Arthur Rubinstein. The origin of the music to Petrushka was in fact a sketched work for piano and orchestra, and the later arrangement was therefore to an extent a return to the original concept. The result is a virtuoso piece, in which an almost percussive approach to the instrument is combined with lightning-quick changes in atmosphere and sound.
Freddy Kempf has previously recorded no less than ten highly acclaimed solo discs for BIS, of which the latest also contained a series of legendary piano works, namely Mussorgsky’s Pictures, Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit and Balakirev’s Islamey – according to Gramophone’s reviewer ‘a formidable programme formidably played… This is “live” virtuosity with a vengeance, with absolutely no hint of a safety net.’
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