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WE THE JURY

The constant references here, and elsewhere, to “proper” Bach performances gives us an interesting opportunity to try out an experiment; courtesy of YouTube.

Imagine that each of us were invited to sit on the jury of a competitive organ-festival, which perhaps moved from church to church each day, and where contestants were required to first play a single, set test-piece as part of their festival recital.

Our test piece is the opening Prelude of the A Minor, BWV 543; possibly one of the Bach works closest to embracing “Stylus Phantasticus,” and open to all manner of interpretations.

Below are various links to YouTube clips played by the great and the good.

If you can press the link without looking at the YouTube screen which pops up (at least until it is finished), all the better.

Obviously, collating the end result will be far too time-consuming if an order of 1 – 10 is expected, so perhaps we could limit ourselves to the top three, and then see what the overall consensus reveals.

Please base all answers on the musicianship of the performances rather on this or that favourite instrument

 

A MINOR BWV 543

 

 

1. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OungdHdMQVA

 

2. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gHuzLO5nnts...feature=related

 

3. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-ETy6jO7Oo...feature=related

 

4.

 

5. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-XXM3nJcCk

 

6. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyf0_dwM_44...feature=related

 

7. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yZRLkdPnpiQ...feature=related

 

8. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5fA3rOUeMTI

 

9.

 

 

Have fun....remember....only first choices 1 to 3.

 

MM

 

 

Quote: "The Purist Bach is dead" - Virgil Fox

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....bit of a strange selection....

 

 

quickly weed out the robot players..

 

 

First 3 ,

second 6

 

third place not awarded...

 

 

PS there used to be a voting button gizmo, which I can't find now, that was last used ? concerning the type of organ shoes you prefer and the type of pedal board

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Chacun à son goût!

1st: 7

2nd: 6

 

and I would have included in my top three Joe Vitacco's video recording (JAV Recordings Inc. - May 2009) of John Scott at the Taylor & Boody organ of St Thomas Church, Fifth Avenue in New York. It's still listed in my YouTube 'Favourites', but has sadly been removed by its owner.

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I'm struggling to find a performance of that piece on Youtube by Oortmerssen, but, to my mind, that's the chap who gets the most music out of most of Bach's organ music. Everything's beautifully articulated and phrased.

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I'm struggling to find a performance of that piece on Youtube by Oortmerssen, but, to my mind, that's the chap who gets the most music out of most of Bach's organ music. Everything's beautifully articulated and phrased.

 

 

==============================

 

 

I regret that I could only post what I could find. I would have liked to have used the Chapuis A Minor, which I have on disc, but alas......!

 

Still, the idea is to demonstrate the different approaches of both the performer AND the listener.

 

MM

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Well, none of the performances are anything like ideal for me, but some are better than others. As far as Bach (and most other music) goes, the performances that move me are always those where the player and the instrument combine to project the music, rather than any other priority between those elements. With respect, I don't see how you can divorce the performances from the organs, since the effectiveness of the performer's musicianship depends on how they handle the instrument. In fact, I think you could argue that, unless the performer and instrument are as one, a performance cannot be totally satisfying. And one also needs to factor in the acoustic, since a number of the performances disqualify themselves because the music degenerates into a mush of obscured detail (usually through insisting on too fast a speed for the fugue).

 

Anyway, my first place goes to no.7, for allowing the music to speak in all its dignity, stature and glory. Other places not awarded (what a shame no.9 let itself down by the silly Romantic touches; otherwise it was well up there).

 

In many ways I really wanted to give first place to No.3 because the speeds, sense of scale and projection of the music are so superbly judged, but unfortunately Richter allows the organ to get in the way of the music. The registration/manual changes just wreck the continuity of the fugue and its musical discourse - and that reed is particularly nasty. A great pity; the fantastic musicianship underlying it all really deserved a vote, but ultimately the colour changes made me wince too often and spoilt my enjoyment.

 

Of the other performances I have found on YouTube, this is the one that actually gets my top vote so far:

 

10. Prelude: http://www.youtube.com/user/micangess#p/se.../37/2DbT7XGuVw8

     Fugue: http://www.youtube.com/user/micangess#p/search/0/hTZG3_fyK9Q

 

I also much enjoyed this one:

 

11.

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Interesting exercise - rather like sitting through the rounds at St Albans, except that interpretations there tend to be much more similar to each other than this selection, and you hear the same piece sixteen times rather than a mere nine.

 

First place: No. 6

 

Second place: No. 3 (in spite of that dreadful reed)

 

Third place: Hmm ... difficult. I thought I was going to like No. 8 but eventually I started to find the performance rather mannered. Might have to plump for No. 1, though it was a bit robotic.

 

Nos. 4 and 5 were unbearable. No. 2 was terribly boring - was rather surprised to discover who it was.

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....bit of a strange selection....

 

 

quickly weed out the robot players..

 

 

First 3 ,

second 6

 

third place not awarded...

Agreed, on the grounds that 3 got me out of bed to dig out a copy and visit the toaster downstairs to run through it again after a couple of years of not playing it, and 6 has decided me to have another run through it tomorrow. I may even play it this weekend! On the other hand, I was surprised by just how many performances made me close that particular window quite quickly. 3 was actually the only performance I listened to all the way through.

 

Unfortunately, YouTube doesn't have the performance of E. Power Biggs which I've enjoyed for many years. Rather passé now, and recorded on a 1950s neo-classical spitting machine, but still a marvel of interpretation.

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Agreed, on the grounds that 3 got me out of bed to dig out a copy and visit the toaster downstairs to run through it again after a couple of years of not playing it, and 6 has decided me to have another run through it tomorrow. I may even play it this weekend! On the other hand, I was surprised by just how many performances made me close that particular window quite quickly. 3 was actually the only performance I listened to all the way through.

 

Unfortunately, YouTube doesn't have the performance of E. Power Biggs which I've enjoyed for many years. Rather passé now, and recorded on a 1950s neo-classical spitting machine, but still a marvel of interpretation.

 

 

=========================

 

Please don't refer to the Busch-Reisenger organ at Harvard, (once actually the property of E Power-Biggs, and after his death, that of his wife), as a "spitting machine."

 

I've played it and had to go and get the key from Mrs Power-Biggs, and I can tell you that although the recordings by Capitol (?) are very good, they were recorded quite close for clarity and detail. In the body of the hall downstairs, this is a truly beautiful instrument, and what may sound like a rank of flutes with whooping cough, sound very different away from the instrument. It seemed to mellow beautifully in that huge acoustic, and sounded very Nederlandish to me.

 

I think it was Stephen Bicknell who said something on the lines of:-

 

"If Dirk Flentrop had set out to make an old wooden bread-bin, he would have produced something that was remarkably like an old wooden bread-bin."

 

In other words, he knew his stuff.

 

This organ had a massive impact on American organists and organ-builders, as did "Biggsy" himself.

 

MM

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Andrea Marcon. (Click on the double down arrow to the right of the title to expand the comments box.)

Oh dear. In that case I think that my 1st 2 choices are the same performance - I must have given preference to the first one because of the picture of the organ!

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I've just discovered this:-

 

 

For once, I am speechless.

 

MM

I made the mistake (?) of listening to this one first, and after that all of the others, including the later suggestions, were right out of the running. I must find out more about Matteo Imbruno and hope to hear more of the Bader organ at Zutphen

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I made the mistake (?) of listening to this one first, and after that all of the others, including the later suggestions, were right out of the running. I must find out more about Matteo Imbruno and hope to hear more of the Bader organ at Zutphen

 

 

===========================

 

 

OK, but jurists do not get to pick the contestants.

 

Let's just say, that if Matteo Imbruno WOULD be the winner if he were a contestant; which he isn't, so it doesn't apply.

 

However, even through a set of headphones and YouTube, I found the hairs on my neck crawling around, straining to listen to it.....absolutely stupendous playing, which takes us to the very edge of crossing-over from control into a train-wreck.

It's funny how the Italians can do this with German music......Finotti playing Schumann, Imbruno playing Bach and Germani playing Reger.

 

The only unfortunate thing is that I keep getting Matteo Imbruno mixed up with the pop-singer Natalie Imbruglia.

 

Crossing musical boundaries is one thing, but cross-dressing is quite another. I'm sure he will understand. :D

 

MM

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=========================

 

Please don't refer to the Busch-Reisenger organ at Harvard, (once actually the property of E Power-Biggs, and after his death, that of his wife), as a "spitting machine."

<snip>

and what may sound like a rank of flutes with whooping cough

Sorry, MM, but, if the cap fits... :lol::D

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I've just discovered this:-

 

 

For once, I am speechless.

 

MM

Oh yes. I must hear more of this. All the drama that others tried to achieve but done with grace, swagger and panache, and absolutely no prattishness at all.

 

AJS

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Too fast for me.

 

 

=========================

 

 

I'm inclined to agree that it's just a tad quick, but what impresses me about this performance is the manner in which the balance between swagger (a good word), excitement and musical architecture is maintained throughout, and that is no mean feat at any speed.

 

MM

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I've just discovered this:-

 

 

For once, I am speechless.

 

MM

There are many other video clips of Matteo Imbruno on the web; see

http://www.antenna.nl/matteo.imbruno/english-version.html

There is also a discography.

 

However, there is nothing there to identify the label or catalogue number of any of his CDs, and a search of the internet CD suppliers that I know, in the UK and elsewhere, fails to find anyone selling his CDs, and an email to the man himself has not yet produced a reply.

 

Does anyone know where Matteo Imbruno's CDs can be purchased online?

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