For two centuries and more, Bach has continued to inspire musicians. Debussy once said, “Bach is Our Lord of Music. To protect themselves against mediocrity, all composers should pray to him before settling down to work.” Yet there was a whole period in which Bach’s music was seldom played. Interest in his oeuvre revived only when it was published early in the nineteenth century, at the beginning of the Romantic Period. Many Romantic composers felt a strong affinity with his music and its architecture. Sometimes this affinity was so profound that, touched by the conceptual inspiration of the original, those transcribing his work created an existing piece in a new form. In many cases the new form was necessary: not only had performance practice changed radically since Bach’s time, but music in the Romantic Period was played on concert stages, whereas Bach’s had been written for specific occasions, often for inclusion in liturgy.
‘In general you could say that the Romantic generation developed very much its own views on Bach’s music. They had to, as there was no performance tradition.’ - Rian de Waal
The pieces on this album clearly show the transformations that music underwent during the Romantic Period. Masterworks such as the Prelude and Fugue in A minor for organ were brought to the stage in transcriptions for solo piano written and performed by Franz Liszt.
‘Liszt took an interesting position in selecting the organ Preludes and Fugues for transcription. Rather than choosing cembalo Suites or Partitas and having to inflate them to concert proportions, the organ pieces possessed these qualities by their nature, as they had been written for performance in churches. In his treatment of the material, he could therefore revert to a very literal “translation”’ - Rian de Waal