Bach: Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582; Trio Sonata in G, BWV 530; Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 538 (Dorian)

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Decca Ovation
WORKS: Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582; Trio Sonata in G, BWV 530; Toccata and Fugue in D minor, BWV 538 (Dorian)
PERFORMER: Carlo Curley (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: 436 477-2 DDD
I think there must be some mesmerising influence about the new JL van den Heuvel organ at St-Eustache, Paris, which compels anyone who plays it to use every stop on it at least once in a single recital. This is the distinct impression I receive both when recollecting recordings made by the present incumbent, Jean Guillou, and now with this new release by Carlo Curley.

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Anyone acquainted with Curley’s art of organ playing knows that all he interprets bears the inimitable stamp of his larger-than-life personality. This reaps rewards in certain repertoire, but in Bach, and especially on this organ, it cannot sustain many repeated hearings. His predilection for slowing up before climactic moments is irksome enough, but when the sole justification for it seems to be a change in registration (sample 2’35” into the ‘Dorian’ Toccata) this is very clumsy. All too often the rhythmic flow of the music is wildly distorted (8’30” into the Passacaglia), and where a feeling of rubato would be stylish, phrases buckle under Curley’s intervention.

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The organ is closely miked and, under such scrutiny, the G major Trio Sonata betrays many a technical deficiency, especially in hand synchronisation. Carlo Curley fans will, I’m sure, rush out for this issue. Not me, I’m afraid. Stephen Haylett