WORKS: Prelude and Fugue in C, BWV 545; Prelude and Fugue in D, BWV 532; Prelude and Fugue in E minor, BWV 548; Chorale Preludes, BWV 720, 721, 727, 741 & 735; Partita, BWV 768
PERFORMER: Gerhard Weinberger (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: 999 700-2
Comparisons between different schools of Bach interpretation among modern day organists invariably bring to light a considerable range of approaches to performance, and these two recent releases, both part of ongoing complete surveys of Bach’s organ music, provide intriguing examples of this polarity of approach.
Choice of instrument, registration, tempo and features of style contrast sharply between the recordings. Weinberger plays on a newly restored and well recorded Christoph Treutmann organ of 1734, and I have to admit to a sinking feeling as soon as the striding pedal line of the opening Prelude and Fugue in C ushered in an unyielding, graceless performance, with no relief from an incessant forte dynamic, even in the fugue. Although his selection of chorale preludes gave him the opportunity to display a more sensitive handling of the instrument, a rather cerebral, even perfunctory air pervades even the songful ‘Herzlich tut mich verlangen’. The Preludes and Fugues in D and E minor come off rather better.
Bowyer’s disc, recorded on the 1962 Marcussen organ which plays host to his other recordings in the series, shows altogether more vital playing, for example in the same Prelude and Fugue in C as in Weinberger’s recital. The notes spring to life more vividly and there is a wonderful sense of spontaneous re-creation running through even the well-known pieces such as the Fantasia in C minor. Stephen Haylett