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Best Recording Of Bach's Major Organ Works?


Guest Lee Blick
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Guest Lee Blick

Advice please:

 

I would like to buy a collection of Bach's organ works on CD. I have a budget of about £120. Which one should I buy? I don't mind the organs not being a Bach period (or close to) instrument necessarliy but a recording by an artist interpreting closely to the composer (if that is possible), i.e. not Carlo Curly'esque' (not that I have anything against his playing style).

 

Oh, just one more request, I have fallen in love with Healy Willan's Introduction, Passacaglia, and Fugue after hearing it at a recital. and hope to learn it when I get an organ installed into my flat at the end of the month. Any recommendations for a good recording of it?

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Advice please:

 

I would like to buy a collection of Bach's organ works on CD. I have a budget of about £120.  Which one should I buy?  I don't mind the organs not being a Bach period (or close to) instrument necessarliy but a recording by an artist interpreting closely to the composer (if that is possible), i.e. not Carlo Curly'esque' (not that I have anything against his playing style).

 

Oh, just one more request, I have fallen in love with Healy Willan's Introduction, Passacaglia, and Fugue after hearing it at a recital. and hope to learn it when I get an organ installed into my flat at the end of the month.  Any recommendations for a good recording of it?

 

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

 

As for Bach, I always liked Chapuis or Hurford, but I don't know if they are still around.

 

However, there is but ONE definitive performance of the Willan, as mentioned recently in one of my postings.

 

Some years ago, John Turner came close at Glasgow Cathedral on LP, but it was the HMV recording by Francis Jackson at York Minster which really set the standard, and which is still available. I don't often use the word, but this performance is pure genius.

 

I'm sure someone will recall the company who have re-issued this recording.

 

Get it!

 

MM

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I would like to buy a collection of Bach's organ works on CD. I have a budget of about £120.  Which one should I buy?  I don't mind the organs not being a Bach period (or close to) instrument necessarliy but a recording by an artist interpreting closely to the composer (if that is possible), i.e. not Carlo Curly'esque' (not that I have anything against his playing style).

 

Oh, just one more request, I have fallen in love with Healy Willan's Introduction, Passacaglia, and Fugue after hearing it at a recital. and hope to learn it when I get an organ installed into my flat at the end of the month.  Any recommendations for a good recording of it?

 

There is no complete set of Bach's organ music on CD where you would find everything played equally satisfying. Herrick is wonderful (though expensive), very clear and elegant and with good instruments (mainly Metzler) but quite classicist. Bowyer plays very, very musically, on mostly Danish neoclassical instruments. Personally, I would not go for Marie-Claire Alain, but try out her most recent set, which was recorded using important historical instruments. There is fairly complete set at CPO with Gerhard Weinberger, playing on important historical organs in Thuringia and Saxony from Bach's time, some of which Bach most probalbly knew.

 

You should also give Rubsam a try, who recorded the most important bits of Bach's organ music, and the Art of Fugue, with Naxos, partly on historical organs, partly on organs contructed quite strictly along historical lines. The Trio sonatas, for example, sound incredibly beautiful on the Groningen Schnitger. Rubsam's tempi and general approach, I admit, leave room for discussion. But the CDs are a bargain, of course, and very well recorded.

 

If you want your hair truly raised, try out Guillou -- before you buy it, of course. His set is far from complete, and I don't know which recordings are still available now that Dorian isn't in business any longer (or so I gathered).

 

Best,

Friedrich

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Advice please:

...

Oh, just one more request, I have fallen in love with Healy Willan's Introduction, Passacaglia, and Fugue after hearing it at a recital. and hope to learn it when I get an organ installed into my flat at the end of the month.  Any recommendations for a good recording of it?

 

Gillian Weir recorded it for Priory at the Aeolian-Skinner/Phelps in The First Church of Christ, Scientist, in Boston. Very good playing, fantastic organ. The same is true for Mark Dwyer's recording for JAV at the Church of the Advent, Boston; here, the recorded sound is a bit more convincing.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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I think it depends very much (well, entirely, really) on how you like your Bach. Not just organs and registrations, but things like speed, articulation, rubato (or lack of) etc, etc.

 

The Hurford set is still available and very highly regarded. Personally I prefer my Bach a bit more serious (i.e. less fast) and I've come to find the endless tinkly registrations a bit tiresome. But it is an excellent set and if you like your Bach like this you'll love it.

 

Herrick is very well thought of too, though I've not heard it myself (Radio 3 recommended it for the Trio Sonatas)

 

I did have Bowyer's volume of the "Eighteen", but gave it away because I found the performnces a bit lacklustre (partly due to the reverb, if I recall).

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Advice please:

 

I would like to buy a collection of Bach's organ works on CD. I have a budget of about £120.  Which one should I buy?  I don't mind the organs not being a Bach period (or close to) instrument necessarliy but a recording by an artist interpreting closely to the composer (if that is possible), i.e. not Carlo Curly'esque' (not that I have anything against his playing style).

 

Oh, just one more request, I have fallen in love with Healy Willan's Introduction, Passacaglia, and Fugue after hearing it at a recital. and hope to learn it when I get an organ installed into my flat at the end of the month.  Any recommendations for a good recording of it?

 

Insofar as the Healey Willan is concerned - the version recorded on the H&H at Exeter Cathedral by Paul Morgan is excellent. There is also the version recorded on Willan's own instrument in Toronto by John ---- ? (I have forgotten the surname - I will check when I get home).

 

I am less familar with the complete JSB recordings but, personally speaking, if I had a budget of £120 there would be no question - go to the nearest 'Majestic' wine warehouse and buy some bottles of really good wine....

 

(Sorry!)

 

;)

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Insofar as the Healey Willan is concerned - the version recorded on the H&H at EXeter Cathedral by Paul Morgan is excellent. There is also the version recorded on Willan's own instrument in Toronto by John ---- ? (I have forgotten the surname - I will check when I get home).

 

The name that had temporarily slipped from PCND's memory is John Tuttle - the other items on that CD are the Cook Fanfare, Durufle Suite op 5 and Dupre Noel Variations.

 

In addition to the performances mentioned above, and easier to obtain by virtue of being recent releases are Patrick Wedd playing an all Willan Programme on Naxos (so you could probably afford the flutter at the risk of not liking it - the instrument is a large Casavant contemporary with the music) and James Vivian at the Temple Church, London, (JAV156) in a disc devoted entirely to Passacaglias. Likewise recently released is Andrew Bryden at Ripon in Regent's English Cathedral Series (Vol 12 I think). Going back to earlier times I am fairly certain that Fred Swan has also recorded the work twice : once at the Riverside Church , New York, and once at the Crystal Cathedral.

 

That should keep you going.

 

Brian Childs

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The name that had temporarily slipped from PCND's memory is John Tuttle - the other items on that CD are the Cook Fanfare, Durufle Suite op 5 and Dupre Noel Variations.

 

In addition to the performances mentioned above, and easier to obtain by virtue of being recent releases are Patrick Wedd playing an all Willan Programme on Naxos (so you could probably afford the flutter at the risk of not liking it - the instrument is a large Casavant contemporary with the music) and James Vivian at the Temple Church, London, (JAV156) in a disc devoted entirely to Passacaglias. Likewise recently released is Andrew Bryden at Ripon in Regent's English Cathedral Series (Vol 12 I think). Going back to earlier times  I am fairly certain that Fred Swan has also recorded the work  twice : once at the Riverside Church , New York, and once at the Crystal Cathedral.

 

That should keep you going.

 

Brian Childs

 

Thank you, Brian!

 

I was interested to hear about the James Vivian recording - what do you think of it? I had asked the same question a few months ago - to be met with a resounding silence.

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Thank you, Brian!

 

I was interested to hear about the James Vivian recording - what do you think of it? I had asked the same question a few months ago - to be met with a resounding silence.

 

I'll have to get back to you on that tomorrow. I have o get up at 6 tomorrow for work and before that I have to write a (tactful) letter to explain to the members of a branch of a certain organisation whose local association I chair that they do not have the power to expel someone from membership any more following a rules revision and their action is a nullity. This will go down like a lead balloon. If anyone thought the infighting on this board was vicious....

 

Brian

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I am sorry to hear that, Brian. I can see that this would be unlikely to raise your profile in the popularity stakes....

 

I hope that it turns out better than you fear.

 

Incidentally, I have just packaged your CD - I have sent you an e-mail. Could you please check the content, if you have time. If necessary, I will re-address it tomorrow!

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Have to agree that £120 would be better spent buying some wine rather than a complete set of the organ works of JSB.

 

Naxos can be a bit hit or miss. However, their new CD of organ works by Healey Willan, including the Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue, is played by Patrick Wedd on the 1915 Casavant Organ at the Eglise Saint Jean Baptiste, Montreal, Canada is a real winner. Contrary to what you might expect from the specification, the instrument sounds more like a Skinner or Harrison. No screaming chamades and mixtures here.

 

http://www.casavant.ca/new_temp/anglais/Hi.../Early/0615.pdf

 

The James Vivian CD from JAV recorded on the Harrison Organ in the Temple Church, London, features Passacaglias by Healey Willan (the Introduction, Passacaglia & Fugue again), Buxtehude, Leighton, Raison, Bach, Shostakovich and Alcock. As you would expect from this player and organ, everything sounds effortless and very smooth. If you want something with a bit more byte, this may be rather too much of a good thing. As far as I am aware, it's only available from Allegro Music at http://www.allegro.co.uk/cdcat/jav/jav150.htm

 

Someone mentioned the Healey Willan recorded by Francis Jackson at York Minster. This is avaialble from Amphion Recordings.

 

However, my own personal favourite version of the Healey Willan is that of David Halls at Salisbury on a brilliant CD appropriately called "The Wonderful Willis". This is on Andrew Post's VIF Records.

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Have to agree that £120 would be better spent buying some wine rather than a complete set of the organ works of JSB.

 

 

...The James Vivian CD from JAV recorded on the Harrison Organ in the Temple Church, London, features Passacaglias by Healey Willan (the Introduction, Passacaglia & Fugue again), Buxtehude, Leighton, Raison, Bach, Shostakovich and Alcock. As you would expect from this player and organ, everything sounds effortless and very smooth. If you want something with a bit more byte, this may be rather too much of a good thing. As far as I am aware, it's only available from Allegro Music at  http://www.allegro.co.uk/cdcat/jav/jav150.htm

 

 

...However, my own personal favourite version of the Healey Willan is that of David Halls at Salisbury on a brilliant CD appropriately called "The Wonderful Willis". This is on Andrew Post's VIF Records.

 

Oh yes! (The bit about the wine.)

 

Thank you, Jeremy for the information on the Temple Church recording. I just felt that I ought to have an up-to-date record of this instrument.

 

You are correct about the Salisbury CD - extremely well-recorded by Andrew Post, too. He also did a blindingly good job for me - he is a very talented chap!

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  • 4 weeks later...
Advice please:

 

I would like to buy a collection of Bach's organ works on CD. I have a budget of about £120.  Which one should I buy?  I don't mind the organs not being a Bach period (or close to) instrument necessarliy but a recording by an artist interpreting closely to the composer (if that is possible), i.e. not Carlo Curly'esque' (not that I have anything against his playing style).

 

Oh, just one more request, I have fallen in love with Healy Willan's Introduction, Passacaglia, and Fugue after hearing it at a recital. and hope to learn it when I get an organ installed into my flat at the end of the month.  Any recommendations for a good recording of it?

 

Go for Herrick; the box-set is about £70 with excellent notes.

 

And notwithstanding Francis Jackson, I love the Boston/Gillian Weir Willan, tho' you do have to be a fan of that type of American sound.

 

By the way Lee, you must know my good friends Ged Act and Clarrie Bell. :unsure:

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Oh yes! (The bit about the wine.)

You are correct about the Salisbury CD - extremely well-recorded by Andrew Post, too. He also did a blindingly good job for me - he is a very talented chap!

 

Has he got a website/catalogue for Vif? - can't seem to find one by the usual means.

 

Thanks.

AJJ

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Advice please:

 

I would like to buy a collection of Bach's organ works on CD. I have a budget of about £120.  Which one should I buy?  I don't mind the organs not being a Bach period (or close to) instrument necessarliy but a recording by an artist interpreting closely to the composer (if that is possible), i.e. not Carlo Curly'esque' (not that I have anything against his playing style).

 

My favourites are Chapuis Audivis), Foccroulle (Ricercar), Koopman (Teldec), and Weinberger (cpo). As far as I know, Foccroulle is definitely OOP, and Koopman might be as well. Weinberger hasn't finished yet (17 CDs and counting, at 5€ per CD here, so that should fit into your £120 limit). On this side of the channel, the Chapuis 14-CD-box is available for less than 100€.

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My favourites are Chapuis Audivis), Foccroulle (Ricercar), Koopman (Teldec), and Weinberger (cpo). As far as I know, Foccroulle is definitely OOP, and Koopman might be as well. Weinberger hasn't finished yet (17 CDs and counting, at 5€ per CD here, so that should fit into your £120 limit). On this side of the channel, the Chapuis 14-CD-box is available for less than 100€.

 

 

I am led to believe that a new series of CD's or DVD's have been or are soon to be released with J. Scott Whiteley of York as the performer.

These would no doubt be interesting, though his tendency to indulge in very marked rit/ralls at the end of sections in the fugue I don't much care for

 

PL

Manchester

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I would like to buy a collection of Bach's organ works on CD. I have a budget of about £120.

I like Hans Fagius (on BIS), which can be got for around £35 (or as part of the fabulous Brilliant Classics complete Bach box for £100).

 

Paul

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Advice please:

 

I would like to buy a collection of Bach's organ works on CD.

 

 

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

 

 

Various dsicussions and recommendations have taken place about the best Bach recordings, and I have refrained from making any comment for a particular reason. It is a measure of Bach's music, that it some how transcends changes of style, taste and widely different interpretations, and I thought it would be rather fun to highlight this using various sound-sources as comparison.

 

Trust our impossibly intellectual Netherlands friends, who take their Bach (and Reger) very seriously, to come up with the goods, the organs and the sources of comparisons.

 

However, prepare to be stunned first of all, not only by a superb performance of the BWV568 by Stephen Taylor, but by the utterly thrilling sound of the Marcussen organ at the Nicolaikirk, Utrecht. It's the first track in the list, and the link is as follows:-

 

http://www.orgelradio.nl/wcms/modules/news....php?storyid=79

 

One thing which fascinates me about the Netherland organists is not only their scholarship, but their interest in all things historic; including performance styles and musical-editions, right down to the last detail. It is, I believe, an almost unique feature of performance, not to be found anywhere else in the world.

 

So try the following link, on which can be heard a wonderful, but utterly unfashionable performance of the "Great" G Minor Fantasy & Fugue played by Jaap Zwart on the equally unfashionable romantic Walcker organ of Doesburg Cathedral. (What a lovely town Doesburg is!!) Jaap Zwart sets out to recreate a romantic-style performance, using the Straube edition of Bach. I doubt that any of us to-day would play Bach like this, and yet, it is utterly compelling and majestic beyond description.

 

http://www.orgelradio.nl/wcms/modules/news....php?storyid=80

 

(tracks 6 & 7)

 

For those with a whole afternoon or evening to spare, I would also recommend listening to the enormous Reger "Symphonic Fantasia" at the end the selection, played on the other St.Bavo organ in Haarlem....the large, romantic Adema organ in the RC basilica. What a fabulous instrument this is. Whether you like Reger or not, this is stupendous playing!

 

However, back to Bach on the original link:-

 

http://www.orgelradio.nl/wcms/modules/news....php?storyid=79

 

(Track 9 - Trio in G major BWV568)

 

I just love the sound of the Holzhey organ at Neresheim, which is possibly closer to the Bach sound than we may imagine.

 

As for my own Bach favourite recording....I don't have one!

 

 

MM

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