The ebb and flow of harmonic tension in the sombre Adagio from the violin sonata in F minor is realized by means of a scrupulously plotted dynamic graph that would be frowned upon today, yet it captures the inexorable unity of the piece to perfection. The inherently subjective nature of our cherished musicological objectivity surfaces in the Andante from the A minor solo violin sonata. Siloti clearly believes that he has treated Bach’s text with irreproachable fidelity and even adds an apologetic note for transposing a couple of bars down an octave. Yet from the moment we hear the sumptuously voiced chords cushioning Bach’s sublime melody we know that we are in the hands of a master romantic pianist. In the original Bach-Gesellschaft edition there was a (rather weak) keyboard transcription of the whole sonata, but later research has pronounced it spurious. The notion that it may be the work of one of Bach’s sons adds a little spice to the speculation. The same Wilhelm Friedemann Bach was the lucky recipient of the little Prelude in B minor which was brought to a wider public in the recording age through Emil Gilels’ unforgettable rendering. The tradition which brings into prominence the hidden left-hand melody in the repeat comes, according to Siloti’s daughter Kyrenia, from the master himself! The Siciliano from the flute sonata in E flat major has been the object of several piano transcriptions (Alkan, Kempff, Friedman and others) as well as suffering the indignity of issuing as muzak from countless elevators and hotel lobbies. Siloti’s, without attempting anything extraordinary, is in my opinion simply the best. In the famous Air from the third orchestral suite, he is again scrupulously respectful to Bach’s text, but his imaginative use of the pedal and the extraordinarily expressive fingerings are of a different epoch.
from notes by Hamish Milne © 2005