Few composers can have inspired a wider range of people with their music than Johann Sebastian Bach, (1685-1750). His works are still beloved listening for vast numbers of enthusiasts today. Rare is the music student who has not at some time performed his music or played his suites and partitas on the violin, cello, flute, saxophone, accordion, organ or piano. There seems to be no end to the stream of performances and recordings - and for good reason: his music remains a potent source of inspiration.
Bach has also proved an inexhaustible source of inspiration for composers. Although he was the target of considerable criticism in his day, and his works were rarely if ever performed in the years immediately after his death, his standing among colleagues was undisputed. In particular Das Wohltemperierte Klavier (The Well-tempered Keyboard) was considered a virtual handbook for composers. Haydn was familiar with the collection, Mozart transcribed portions of it for string quartet, Beethoven was taught from it, and Chopin used the music to warm up before concert performances.
Bach’s vocal compositions did not have a commensurate reputation. But after Mendelssohn organized a performance of the St. Matthew Passion in 1829, it proved to be the start of a genuine Bach revival for wider audiences. In the following years, both Schumann and Liszt became passionate advocates for Bach’s music. Liszt, as a touring piano virtuoso, aroused wild enthusiasm with his own arrangements of several of Bach’s major organ compositions. In this way he established the foundation for a vast repertoire of arrangements and transcriptions that appeared in the succeeding generations. A varied selection of these can be heard on this CD.