Masaaki Suzuki plays JS Bach's organ works
'In every sense this new release returns Masaaki Suzuki to his roots'
One of the most versatile of all Bachians, Masaaki Suzuki still manages to spring a surprise with this outstanding recital. Despite his previous Sweelinck and Buxtehude organ albums for BIS, his multi-award-winning complete survey of the Bach cantatas on the same label has eclipsed even his own wider activities. Yet in every sense this new release returns him to his roots: after beginning as an organist in his native Japan, he studied harpsichord and organ in the Netherlands, and it is back there he records on one of the great instruments from the Bach era, the Schnitger/Hinz organ in the Martinikerk, Groningen. From its woody chuff to bright rasp, the instrument is superbly captured here and Suzuki uses it with flair and imagination.
Even the ubiquitous Toccata and Fugue in D minor, which opens the disc, sounds fresh and virtuosic, with all the old varnish stripped away by the clarity of Suzuki’s interpretation. It’s balanced at the end by the towering Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 548, truly Bach’s grandest work yet one that seldom comes across with quite such a tour de force of musical depth. The works in between amount to a wonderful and far from standard sampling of the Bach organ literature. For all the filigree lightness of the Fantasia in G, the most dazzling is the Canonic Variations on ‘Von Himmel Hoch’: unusually, there is nothing dry about their contrapuntal contortions, and indeed both this performance and that of the pungent Pastorale breathe with the best seasonal spirit.