Bach: Organ works

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Regis
WORKS: Organ works
PERFORMER: Ton Koopman (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: RRC 2042
Though these discs are, as it were, ‘school of Koopman’ (James Johnstone studied with him), they are different in so many respects. Both are recorded on first-class historic organs, including the Waalse Church in Amsterdam with its 1733 Christian Müller organ. Both present a varied programme, with lesser-known pieces nestling amongst the standards. And both, in their way, are highly enjoyable performances.

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The chief difference is in their stylistic approach. Where Koopman tends to be measured and undemonstrative, Johnstone uses a greater range of rhetorical gesture. Johnstone seems to take to heart the contemporary accounts of Bach’s virtuoso playing (printed helpfully in the booklet notes) and turns in a sparkling G major Prelude and Fugue and a totally engrossing ‘Wedge’. Koopman’s attraction is his ability to control the pace of a piece over time; his A minor Fugue accelerates towards the end, and makes complete sense of the final flourishes by doing so. Personally I find the echo effects at the beginning of the Fantasia in G off-putting and mannered, as indeed is some of the extremely florid ornamentation. But the overall sense of levity is welcome. If push comes to shove, however, I would opt for Johnstone’s more involving readings. William Whitehead