Bach: Das Orgelbüchlein

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Mirabilis
WORKS: Das Orgelbüchlein
PERFORMER: Richard Marlow (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: MRCD 904 DDD
Bach completed only 46 of the 164 Chorale Preludes originally proposed for his Weimar Orgelbüchlein of 1713-16. Individual preludes are featured on several Bach discs, such as Lionel Rogg’s Christmas selection (Harmonia Mundi HMA 190 717). Yet there are surprisingly few CD recordings of the whole series.

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This record offers a remarkable 82 minutes of music. My main reservation, given the thin separation between tracks, is that key-juxtapositions can be so limp or jarring (eg the Rohrflöte and Sesquialtera entry of BWV 622) as to make one unsure whether listening to them in sequence is necessarily the best approach. Yet these amount to a profound contemplation, built round the liturgical year. Richard Marlow, playing the splendid Metzler organ of Trinity College Cambridge, offers unfussy, workmanlike performances. The Trinity acoustic seems ideal. Quiet reeds occasionally allow inner parts to get lost; a few items lurch through at a rather frenetic pace.

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In the absence of any tear-jerking softer combination (even ‘Ich ruf’ zu Dir’ is treated fairly robustly), celebratory Easter items such as BWV 828, with its rich pedal Posaune, or the syncopations of the Pentecostal ‘Komm, Gott Schöpfer’ BWV 631 come over best. A few, like the closing prelude, show off the Trinity instrument at its subtle finest. Roderic Dunnett