Bach: Clavier-Ãœbung: E flat major Prelude and Fugue; Chorales

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4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Hyperion
WORKS: Clavier-Übung: E flat major Prelude and Fugue; Chorales
PERFORMER: Christopher Herrick (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67213-14
The third part of Bach’s Clavier-Übung consists of 27 items, mostly chorale preludes, framed by the great E flat major Prelude and Fugue nicknamed ‘St Anne’. They are all here, though not arranged in published sequence, and they’re spread over two discs with other chorale arrangements from various sources. Hyperion’s booklet notes and presentation are up to their usual high standard, but could have been still clearer – it’s hard to sort out what belongs to the Clavier-Übung and what doesn’t.

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Christopher Herrick’s playing and the recording, on the other hand, are the very model of clarity. He plays two modern ‘Classical’ organs, both in the Stadtkirche, Zofingen, by the Swiss builder Metzler (he’s played Metzler organs in various Swiss towns throughout his series of Bach recordings) – one moderately large with three manuals, the other a single-manual instrument, which Herrick uses for the chorales that do not require pedals. The latter makes very sweet sounds, though track 10 of the second disc shows it builds a dignified full chorus, too.

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The main organ is also a nice, clean instrument, though for one with 40-odd speaking stops, it seems a bit restricted both in colour and power. Perhaps Herrick’s neat, brisk approach to the music drew him to this organ, or did the instrument influence his interpretations? Certainly, the ‘St Anne’ calls for more flamboyance – and gets it from Ton Koopman, playing a historic Silbermann organ of almost identical size in the Saxon town of Freiberg, with a more resounding, brilliantly coloured character. Adrian Jack