JS Bach: Sonata No. 3 in D minor, BWV 527; Sonata No. 6 in G, BWV 530; Canonic Variations on Von Himmel hoch, da komm ich her, BWV 769a

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COMPOSERS: JS Bach
LABELS: CPO
ALBUM TITLE: Organ Works, Vol. 16
WORKS: Sonata No. 3 in D minor, BWV 527; Sonata No. 6 in G, BWV 530; Canonic Variations on Von Himmel hoch, da komm ich her, BWV 769a
PERFORMER: Gerhard Weinberger (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: 777 019-2
Bach’s Canonic Variations on ‘Vom Himmel hoch’ is by turns heart-breakingly beautiful and awe-inspiringly grand, its textures constructed with a scientific self-discipline worthy of astrophysics. Players tend to divide themselves into two camps here; those who are inspired by the music’s mathematical tendencies towards a mechanised performance, and those who, like Gerhard Weinberger, play it as music first and foremost. His musicality shows us around the edifice like a proud tenant, demonstrating decorative details before structure. Indeed, he is a player who excels in the small-scale, and the intimate slow movements are his playground: the Lente of the G major Trio Sonata and the chorale prelude ‘Jesus, meine Zuversicht’ are exquisite. But in the more substantial pieces, I occasionally miss the bigger gesture: for instance, the A major Prelude (BWV 536) cries out for a more rhetorical approach, even if the interpretation is intentionally understated. The Pièce d’orgue is more outspoken in its gesture, and any criticism must be registered against the overall stature of Weinberger’s playing, which is impressive. The restored Hildebrandt organ in Naumburg is well captured, sounding lucid and even demonstrating some surprising undulating stops, not normally associated with Bach. William Whitehead

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