WORKS: Orgelbüchlein, Part 1 – Chorales de tempore, BWV 599, 600, 601, 602 603, 604, 605, 606, 607, 608,609, 610, 611, 612, 613, 614, 615 616, 617, 618, 619, 620, 621, 622, 623, 623, 624, 625, 626, 627, 628, 629, 630, 631
PERFORMER: Gerhard Winberger (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: 999 652-2
Rarely has a title been more misleading; the Chorales in the Orgelbüchlein are, despite their modest span on the page, far from being the small fry of the organ repertoire. Any organist who falls into the trap of considering them thus is missing one of the great glories of Bach’s oeuvre. Gerhard Weinberger shows no such naivety. He makes each Chorale, averaging about two minutes in length, sound like a ‘big’ piece. Admittedly the tools at his disposal are peerless. He plays the newly restored organ in Trondheim Cathedral, built in the 1740’s by the Berlin builder Joachim Wagner, a characterful and mellifluous instrument with a compelling pedigree. (We know that Bach played on at least two Wagner organs, and that he considered one of them ‘an entirely splendid instrument’.) Given this, and Weinberger’s appropriate and stylish phrasing, the pieces take on a wholly convincing authenticity.
There are many complete recordings of the Orgelbüchlein to choose from. For my taste, the exceptional quality of the restored Wagner organ, together with the intensity of musicianship distilled in each Chorale, puts Gerhard Weinberger in the top rank. William Whitehead