Bach: Preludes and Fugues, BWV 547, 548 & 550; Eight Short Preludes and Fugues, BWV 553-60; Canzona in D minor, BWV 588; Toccata in E, BWV 566

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: DG
WORKS: Preludes and Fugues, BWV 547, 548 & 550; Eight Short Preludes and Fugues, BWV 553-60; Canzona in D minor, BWV 588; Toccata in E, BWV 566
PERFORMER: Simon Preston (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: 449 212-2
Listening to these two discs back to back makes for intriguing comparisons of both style and approach to Bach interpretation. Through his fastidious approach to articulation, Preston brings wonderful transparency to the music, every strand or motive of the texture given equal status. He also brings a fine sense of inner cohesion to the music, each musical paragraph seemingly growing logically and inevitably out of the last.

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Koopman’s approach bears the indelible hallmarks of his own idiosyncratic style.There is a palpable sense of freedom and spontaneity to his playing which comes as a refreshing antidote to some of the more prosaic recordings on period instruments. Preston plays on the Klais organ at St John’s, Smith Square, an instrument well-suited to projecting the character of Bach’s music, although the lack of definition in the pedal line is a cause for occasional disappointment, for instance in the Gigue Fugue. Throughout the recital, however, Preston brings energy to his playing by propelling the music forward, and in the ‘Wedge’ Prelude and Fugue, the results are compelling.

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Koopman, using two restored 18th-century instruments for his recital, opts for similarly fast speeds, although his technique is such that there is never any suggestion of hurrying. Generally, Koopman’s use of ornamentation is unobtrusive, although on occasion I feel he rather overgilds the lily, when simplicity would be a wiser option. Stephen Haylett