The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: YOU MUST HEAR THIS – Chicago pianist Jorge Federico Osorio plays a piano transcription of J.S. Bach by Walter Rummel, whose transcriptions deserve a much wider hearing. | August 2, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

There is no point being a purist about transcriptions, especially in the Baroque era and Romantic eras.

All the great Baroque composers  — Antonio Vivaldi, Georg Philipp Telemann, George Frideric Handel and especially Johann Sebastian Bach (below) to name a few — borrowed from themselves and from other composers, and always felt free to rearrange the original for a different instrument or a special occasion.

Bach1

Like many piano fans, I know and have heard or even played a lot of Bach transcriptions for the modern piano, from Ferrucio Busoni’s wonderful version of chorale preludes to Alexander Siloti’s and Egon Petri’s version to Wilhelm Kempff and of course the famous version of “Jesu Joy of Man’s Desiring” by Dame Myra Hess (below).

Portrait of Myra Hess, 1950s

But I had never heard of transcriptions of Walter Rummel -– even though the Hyperion label offer a series of Bach piano transcriptions with more than 10 volumes, including a 2-CD set of Walter Rummel’s transcriptions of movements from Bach’s cantatas.

Rummel (below, in 1944) lived from 1887 to 1953 and studied with the virtuosic performer and arranger Leopold Godowsky. Though of German background, he spent most of his career in France and was acclaimed for his playing especially of Debussy, and for his arrangements and transcriptions.

Walter Rummel in 1944

Anyway, I like what I heard and was quite taken with it, and hope you will be too. As with so many of these transcriptions, I suspect it sounds a lot easier to play than it really is.

Anyway, here it is, played by the Chicago pianist Jorge Federico Osorio (below) in a live performance captured by and posted in a YouTube video.

Jorge Federico Osorio

I cannot find a recording of this particular work – although Osorio has recorded three volumes of Mexican music, including the Piano Concerto by Carlos Chavez, for the outstanding  non-profit Cedille Records in Chicago — by Osorio on CD. But the acclaimed pianist Jonathan Plowright has recorded it for the Hyperion series.

What is your favorite piano transcription of Bach? And who plays it?

The Ear wants to hear.

In the mean time, here is the lovely and calmingly thoughtful performance by Jorge Federico Osorio. Tell me if it doesn’t want to make you hear more:


3 Comments »

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    Comment by what is an electric piano — June 4, 2016 @ 7:41 pm

  2. Siloti transcription of Bach Violin Partita no. 2 – Chaconne (BWV1004) played by Risto Lauriala on Naxos.

    Comment by Vincent — August 2, 2013 @ 8:20 am

    • Hi Vincent,
      Thank you for reading and replying with such specificity.
      The only transcription of the famous Bach Chaconne I know is the one by Brahms for the solo left hand.
      So I will check out this one.
      And I will see what else the same pianist has recorded.
      Best,
      Jake

      Comment by welltemperedear — August 2, 2013 @ 11:51 am


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