Psalms from Geneva

COMPOSERS: Sweelick
LABELS: BIS
WORKS: Toccata in A; Psalm 140; Toccata in G;Psalm 23; Fantasia Chromatica in D;Echo Fantasia in C etc
PERFORMER: Masaaki Suzuki (organ)

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For this mixed programme of Sweelinck, Suzuki plays the organ of Shinko-Kyokai in Kobe, Japan, a copy of a mid-17th century Dutch-style organ, miraculous in its recreation of an older soundworld. His playing is appropriately undemonstrative.

It is neatly articulated and undeniably nimble. But, as with all great composers, Sweelinck at times exceeds the bounds of Calvinist requirement, and Suzuki’s performance does not always match this. The delicious, often humorous, figuration does not always come off the page as it should.

The real spirit of Christmas seems to be missing from Puer nobis nascitur, taken at a ponderous tempo. There is a rhetoric, albeit modest, to some passages of Sweelinck’s music, especially the toccatas, which Suzuki opts to play straight for the most part.

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Perhaps Sweelinck, and those that played his music, were bound by codes of restraint, but it seems a shame to shackle the music still, even if in the name of historical awareness.