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Music School: Parry Karp, cello and Howard Karp, piano

J. S. Bach: Chorale "Nun komm' der Heiden Heiland," BWV 569,
(transcribed by Pierre Fournier)
J. S. Bach: Sonata in D Major for Viola da Gamba and Harpsichord, BWV 1028
J. S. Bach: Adagio, BWV 564
from Toccata in C Major for organ
(transcribed by Alexander Siloti)
J. S. Bach: Partita in A Minor for Unaccompanied Flute, BWV 1013
(as Partita in C Minor for Unaccompanied Cello)
(transcribed by Parry Karp)
J. S. Bach: Arioso, BWV 1056
Second movement of Clavier Concerto in F Minor
(Transcribed by Sam Franko)
J. S. Bach: Sonata in G Minor for Viola da Gamba and Harpsichord, BWV 1029
J. S. Bach: Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, BWV 903
(transcribed by Busoni)

Parry Karp, cello
Howard Karp, piano


Cellist Parry Karp and pianist Howard Karp presented a duo program at Mills Hall Saturday evening consisting entirely of transcriptions for cello of music by J. S. Bach. There were gems and curiosities, all appreciated by a goodly audience.

Opening with an organ work, the Chorale "Nun komm' der Heiden Heiland," BWV 659, transcribed by cellist Pierre Fournier, the solo line captured the arioso character of the piece, while the accompaniment stayed very much in the background, a feature also present in the Adagio, BWV 564, transcribed from the Toccata in C Major for organ by Alexander Siloti, and in the Adagio, BWV 1056 from the Clavier Concerto No. 5 in F Minor, transcribed by Sam Franko. In all three works, the cello playing, though not paying much heed to Baroque styles of articulation and ornamentation, emphasized the winding long melismas of Bach's vocal espressivo.

The two sonatas for viola da gamba and continuo, of course, were not transcriptions in the same sense as the program's other music, since the originals are set for a bowed string instrument of approximately the same range. Only relatively minor adjustments are needed to adapt them to the cello, the playing of which, compared to the gamba, is entirely different matter idiomatically. The keyboard part of the sonatas can work on the piano as written, although the sound-picture is radically different, especially with respect to blending the two instruments. All three Bach sonatas for gamba are bears to play, very elaborate in their figurations for either instrument. Perhaps because of their greater closeness to the original concepts, the two sonatas presented here were arguably the best music of the evening.

Pianist-composer Ferruccio Busoni left a large corpus of Bach transcriptions, mostly for piano, but in 1917 he made a version of the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue, BWV 903 for the cellist-conductor Hans Kindler. This quintessentially keyboard piece has to be one of the least likely candidates among Bach's works for transcription to a melody instrument. Busoni didn't exactly fail in the effort, but neither did he succeed.

Several of the more soloistic harpsichord flourishes are given to the cello, very high in its range, and these sound quite uncharacteristic for Bach. For the greater part of the work, and especially in the fugue, the cello's music is seldom truly contrapuntal or integral to the structure, but is more an accompanying obligatto. But fugues really don't need obligatto parts. The playing, though at times inescapably cumbersome, was for the most part good. The piano at no point overwhelmed the cello, though I think Howard Karp might have played out more than he did here.

Alongside the gamba sonatas, I thought the most absorbing transcription was the recasting of the unaccompanied flute partita, in A minor, as an unaccompanied cello partita in C minor, done by Karp himself. The repeats allow the soloist to use more elaborate ornamentation, and though Karp did much less of this than he might have, especially in the remarkable sarabande, it was indeed beautiful playing. The work's concluding bourée anglaise also went very well.

Madison Music Review, October, 2001
Copyright 2001 Jess Anderson

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