Chiyan Wong - Bach - Busoni: Goldberg Variations & Other Works - All Music
Romantic-style interpretations of Bach's music are enjoying a certain vogue, but few have taken golden-era pianism's liberties to such as extreme as does this reading of Bach's Goldberg Variations for keyboard, BWV 988, by pianist Chiyan Wong. What listeners of this Linn release will hear is a performance of Bach's text modified no fewer than four times. First, Bach's harpsichord work is played on a piano; second, it's a 1915 edition by Ferruccio Busoni that added extra octaves, bass lines, ornamentation, and more, wherein Busoni suggested omitting Bach's repeats and leaving out nine canonic variations altogether, cutting the work down to about a half an hour in length. Finally, Wong made changes of his own to this version, altering the difficult two-manual variations to make them a bit easier for the piano and mostly scrapping Busoni's final recurrence of the theme in favor of Bach's (still slightly modified) original. The listener's reaction to this will obviously be determined largely by their attitude toward the concept, but the album doubtless offers a chance to hear Bach through the ears of the public of a hundred years ago, and Wong is an exciting young pianist with an impressive ability to delineate contrapuntal lines. He includes his own version of one of the missing canons (very much in the Busoni spirit), a Busoni sonatina, and an intriguing reading of the Busoni arrangement of the Chaconne from the Bach Partita No. 2 in D minor for solo violin, BWV 1004, that dispenses with the usual monumental tone and reveals many small details. Linn's church sound is oddly papery, and surely the album is not to everyone's taste; historical performance devotees may have to be carried out in a cold sweat. However, on its own terms, it's well-executed, and it's clearly intriguing.