BACH Chaconne in D Minor from Violin Partita No. 2, BWV 1004
Conceived for solo violin, Bach’s D-Minor Chaconne has been adapted for various instruments and ensembles. In arranging it for piano left hand, Brahms marveled that on “one stave, for a small instrument” Bach had inscribed “a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings.”
BUSONI Fantasia nach J. S. Bach, K. 253
One of the most forward-looking composers and musical thinkers of his time, Busoni also had a keen interest in music of the past. This ingenious fantasy, based on themes from Bach’s organ works, illustrates his contention that every piece of music “stands at once inside and outside time.”
SCHUMANN Variations on an Original Theme, WoO 24
Left unfinished at the time of Schumann’s death, this brief but beguiling set of variations is numbered among the composer’s “Werke ohne Opus” (“works without opus numbers”). Although its composition in 1854 coincided with the onset of Schumann’s final illness, the music conveys a sense of peace rather than suffering.
LISZT “Solemn March to the Holy Grail,” S. 450, from Parsifal
A devout Wagnerite, Liszt seized every opportunity to champion Wagner’s innovative musical dramas as both a pianist and conductor. This work is a freely creative piano paraphrase based on the march from Act I of Parsifal, as well as other themes from Wagner’s “festival play for the consecration of the stage.”
LISZT Fantasia and Fugue on “Ad nos, ad salutarem undam,” S. 259
Equally adept as transcribers, Liszt and Busoni masterfully translated orchestral, vocal, and other types of music into a piano idiom. Liszt’s Fantasia and Fugue for organ, itself inspired by a theme from Meyerbeer’s opera Le prophète, was transformed again by Busoni into a brilliant pianistic tour de force.