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William McNally - Brahms - Handel Variations Op 24

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If the content of a CD is to be a recital, a single musical meal, the recording you now hold is most decadent, an epic musical feast (which I might suggest requires digestion time between courses). It is music that intrigues me most, whose very existence challenges me - music whose tapestries continue to reveal secrets. Both their elusiveness and geniality continues to attract me after many years. I grew up on the Brahms Handel Variations; it was one of the first recordings to which I consciously listened and obsessively replayed. The idea of compositionally linking one era to another intrigued me, for as a performer what was I doing but bringing a piece of the past into the present? This work had such harmonic clarity, such perfect weaving of lines and thoughts, but it had magnificence too. It whetted my appetite for all things musical, but especially for romantic music grown from baroque seeds. At seventeen, I discovered the score to Reger's Bach Variations in a lonely bin at a store which was discontinuing it's sales of sheet music. While the name Reger was unfamiliar to me, it was clearly an epic piano work, and the "Bach" in the title (plus the steep discount) gave me the confidence to purchase it. When I then read through it at a piano, I realized that this was not only thick music but a brilliant maze that I was in every way unequipped to navigate. It lingered for years on my mind until Ursula, my teacher, asked me to select repertoire for my upcoming doctoral recital. "Choose one piece that you must play before you die, and build your program around that." I may have overshot the intention of her suggestion, but it was the push I needed to learn the work. Busoni has long been a favorite composer of mine. From the Bach transcriptions to the staggering Piano Concerto, here was a composer who was a visionary architect of the highest order. The Bach Fantasy is a relatively compact synthesis of Busoni's ideals, and in it's bars a listener travels a distance greater than the sum of it's notes.

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Brahms - Handel Variations Op 24 | William McNally