Friday, 3 September 2010

Harriet Cohen's Bach Book

I first came across A Bach Book for Harriet Cohen in the late 1970's when Ronald Stevenson included a couple of items from it in his fascinating lecture recital on Bach transcriptions. I remember Ronald playing RVW's Bach piece from Harriet Cohen's book and I think one other. It was an evening which concluded with Ronald giving a towering performance of the Bach/Busoni Chaconne, having covered a great deal of ground in between, including Grainger's Sheep may safely graze and, if memory serves me correctly, Chopin's Revolutionary Etude. I was rather tantalised by the idea of the other pieces in the book and I even managed to acquire the book myself and played through a few items. An odd few pieces from the book have occasionally cropped up. But now Jonathan Plowright has recorded the entire book, which sounds fascinating.

In his Guardian Review, Andrew Clements is a little more guarded in his welcome suggesting that the standard of the pieces is a little variable. But as a fascinating side-light on English musical history in the 1930's, this is invaluable. It would, of course, be interesting to learn how many of the contributors Cohen had had affairs with!

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