Buxtehude/CPE Bach: Organ Sonata No. 2; Organ Sonata No. 3; Organ Sonata No. 4; Organ Sonata No. 5; Organ Sonata No. 6

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COMPOSERS: Buxtehude/CPE Bach
LABELS: Virgin
WORKS: Organ Sonata No. 2; Organ Sonata No. 3; Organ Sonata No. 4; Organ Sonata No. 5; Organ Sonata No. 6
PERFORMER: Nicholas Danby (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: VC 7 59277 2 DDD
Both Buxtehude and CPE Bach have suffered much from being cast under the long shadow of JS Bach, but during their day they were considered not only as unrivalled keyboard players but also as composers of the first rank. It is to be hoped that these two new issues will help restore the worthy reputation they deserve. Graham Barber offers an intelligent, well-planned recital on the organ at St Peter Mancroft, Norwich, alternating large-scale preludes with chorale settings. Barber finds his most eloquent voice in the chorale pieces, where he shapes a beautiful cantabile line above the accompanying textures and achieves a near-perfect balance. The large preludes certainly contain plenty of vitality, but the close recording occasionally renders the sound of the organ rather claustrophobic – at the outset of the F sharp minor Prelude, for instance.

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Peter Hurford’s comparable Decca recital offers some stylish playing, and his whole approach is bigger-boned. In places such as the Gigue Fugue, Hurford dances while Barber is more laboured.

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It might be hard to imagine CPE Bach’s capricious style lending itself comfortably to the organ, but Nicholas Danby argues a convincing case. All but one of the pieces is for manuals alone, and perhaps in compensation for this, Danby draws some big, beefy sounds from the late 18th-century German instrument at Kloster Neresheim, especially in the outer movements of the sonatas. The recording is spacious, but without any loss of clarity in fast scale passages. Stephen Haylett