Bach: The Neumeister Chorales

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: The Neumeister Chorales
PERFORMER: Christopher Herrick (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67215
These Chorales were compiled at the end of the 1700s by a teacher and part-time organist Gottfried Neumeister, and only unearthed again in the Eighties. They represent Bach’s early Chorale style, somewhat in the mould of his later Orgelbüchlein. Each is therefore a miniature, none more than four minutes long, capturing a facet of Lutheran spirituality.

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Christopher Herrick, formerly one of the Westminster Abbey organists, has now completed his Bach cycle for Hyperion. All his discs are recorded on Metzler organs in Switzerland, this one on the nine-stop choir organ in the parish church of Zofingen. Like all Metzlers, it has a beautiful, crystal-clear sound, which makes the simple chorale textures utterly transparent. The cleanness of tone is matched by Herrick’s sober and dignified approach, in which the music is simply allowed to speak for itself. Occasionally, I was left wanting more than Herrick’s unvarying tactus and efficient phrasing, particularly in the more emotional chorales. Though designed as functional introductions for congregational singing, they are charged with symbolic and emotive power which, when captured in performance, can turn them into something really precious. Herrick aims not to capture the moment, but to unfold the music before us clearly and logically, and does so with panache. William Whitehead