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And Now For Something Completely Different ...


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I recently saw advertisements on the web for a DVD: "J S Bach and the Magic of Slovak Caves", and as it was very cheap I indulged my curiosity.


The organ pieces are familiar - Toccata and Fugue in D minor BWV565, Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C, Prelude and Fugue in A minor, Fantasy and Fugue in G minor, and several chorale preludes.


The pictures are almost exclusively of Slovak Caves, with occasional pan and zoom shots of two different werkprinzip organs. Much is made of the visual pun with the similarity in form of rows of organ pipes and stalagtites. Neither of the organs pictured is the one being played.


The on-screen titles show: "Lamp of God" instead of "Lamb of God", and because the person who did the titling mistook the end of a section in the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue for the end of the piece, every subsequent title is out of place. The final piece is therefore given the title "Slovak Gaves" (instead of "Slovak Caves") to complete the track list. The firm which did this refers to its work as "authering".


However, I have many recordings of these pieces, and while several performances are as good as on the DVD, none are better. The tuning is clearly not ET, although I thought that it was rather milder than 1/4 comma mean-tone. I contacted Miklos Spanyi whose name appears on the box, and he replied:


"This is in all probability the same recording which has been issued on numerous labels either under my name or 'Otto Winter'. This is undoubtedly my recording, one half of a material of about 2 hours (2 cd's) of Bach's organ pieces recorded in 1987 on a little organ in Szombathely/Hungary, built in 1986 by Orgelbau Eule (Bautzen,Germany) very much in the style of Gottfried Silbermann. The tuning was the only slightly modified tuning once supposed to be Silbermann's: 1/6 pyth. comma meantone. (In recent times it has been pointed out that Sorges' description of Silbermann's tuning principles was false, Sorge deliberately wanted to create a negative impression of Silbermann.) This recording was made by Hungaroton, in those times still a state-owned firm offering recording services with Hungarian artists and technicians on order of 'Western' tradesmen making deal with cheap classical recordings. This is how my cd's were issued in many places (mostly Germany or Austria) with the false artist name Otto Winter and adding 'on Silbermann organ'. As far as I know no further versions with Otto Winter's name are available."


It was available on Cd from Point Classics at a very low price. Now it's out of stock, and copies are advertised on the web at prices from £87.55 to £133.29.


David Hitchin

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