Bach: Clavier-Ubung, Book 3; Canonic Variations on Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her, BWV 769a

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COMPOSERS: Bach
LABELS: Teldec
WORKS: Clavier-Ubung, Book 3; Canonic Variations on Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her, BWV 769a
PERFORMER: Ton Koopman (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: 4509-98464-2
Among several organists trawling through Bach’s complete organ works on CD, Ton Koopman is at the forefront for scholarly awareness, technical virtuosity and lively interpretation. Here, in the contrapuntal intricacies of some of Bach’s chorale settings, the grand ‘St Anne’ Prelude and Fugue, and the celebrated Canonic Variations on ‘Vom Himmel hoch’, he is at his least quirky and controversial. What disappoints – at least in this recording

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– is the harsh, acidic sound of the Silbermann organ, dating back to 1711, in Freiberg in Saxony.

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Some of the most interesting recordings of Bach are on modern ‘classical’ instruments, and Iain Simcock’s attractive programme is beautifully recorded on a small French organ built in 1972 for a chapel in Angers. On this he does the great Passacaglia proud, and the first movement of the Vivaldi transcription resonates beautifully in the building. The ‘Gigue’ Fugue (BWV 577) is played entirely, and very buoyantly, on a mellow trumpet stop. Only some mannered delays in the Prelude in G and some arthritic rhythmic bending in the last chorale prelude spoil a disc which is otherwise very enjoyable. Adrian Jack