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Faure songs
Charlotte de Rothschild (soprano);

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Organ Works: Fantaisie in C minor BWV 562; Fugue in G minor BWV 578; Fugue in B minor on a theme of Corelli BWV 579; Praeludium and Fugue in C minor BWV 549; Choral Preludes on- Durch Adams Fall BWV 637, Wenn wir in Hochsten not ensein BWV 641, Wir danken dir, Herr Jesu Christ BWV 623, Jesu meine Freude BWV 610, Christum wir sollen loben schon BWV 611, Wir Christenleut BWV 612
Hans Helmut Tillmanns (organ)
Played on the historic König organ of the Schlosskirche in Schleiden, Germany
Eight little Preludes and Fugues BWV 553-560
Played on the Weimbs organ in Koln-Widdersdorf
Recorded in March 2003
DANACORD DACOCD 608 [59.52]


It now seems that after Bach’s death his music was not entirely forgotten until the blessed days of Felix Mendelssohn; this story is actually a touch of musical spin because of Mendelssohn’s own rich association with St. Thomas’s Leipzig. In fact Bach’s organ works continued in the repertoire well into the 19th century and were in print. Works like the ones recorded here are examples of good standard Bachian repertoire.

Hans Helmut Tillmans will be well known to those who have been collecting the complete works on Danacord as this is now volume nine. He has also recorded Buxtehude and some rare Italian music of the 18th century. His biography tells us that he is also familiar with contemporary music although gives us no names of composers with whom he has been associated.

The CD booklet is a very curious object and I should mention it now. It is adorned with a photo of the fine case of the organ at the Schlosskirke in Schleiden. On the back in colour is a rather glum looking Hans Tillmanns in an unflattering pose with a brief biography. Inside there is brief note on Bach’s early career, reminding us that his first appointment was in 1703 in Arnstadt and that many of his best organ works were composed early on in his career when he was already writing in a variety of musical forms and was influenced by his contemporaries both German and Italian. Then there is a more substantial note on the organ which adorns the cover. The specification of both instruments is given. There is a note whimsically entitled ‘Company news’ which informs us about the Weimbs family who are responsible for the restoration of the historic organ in Koln-Widdersdorf. Finally comes the only musical comment which deals succinctly with the Eight short Preludes and Fugues BWV 553-60 which are almost certainly not by Bach anyway but by one of his pupils! The disc also informs us that the length of the CD is 61.36. Its actual length is less than an hour and nowadays this seems to be a little under par.

Putting these cavils to one side and concentrating on the music and on the performance is mercifully easier and a pleasant task. I can report only positive things. The acoustic of the churches is nicely captured but does not interfere. The organs are realistically recorded. It is of interest to compare them.

The smaller organ is the one at Koln-Widdersdorf. It has two manuals and sixteen stops including a charming two foot ‘Flageolet’. It is used only for the ‘Eight short Preludes and Fugues’. It is a pity that it is only used for these short-winded pieces and not for a couple of choral preludes as well> It is well suited to these pieces and as I have said, there is ample space on the CD. Its lighter touch is ideal here.

The old town of Schleiden was largely destroyed in the Second World War but remarkably the church built on the periphery of the town survived. The organ at the Schlosskirche has two manuals but thirty stops including no less than seven for the pedal board. Its original builder is anonymous but Tillmanns suggests that it was probably Christian König c.1770 the façade of his instrument as well as several stops survives from that time although much restoration has been carried out since, most recently in 1988, when the pedal board was enlarged. Frustratingly no history is given for the Koln-Widdersdorf organ by Weimbs.

Some musical highlights: I find the performances sure and faultless. The opening Fantaisie in C minor sets the tone with a solemn tread yet bright registration with eight-foot flute stops on the Great. The famous Fugue in G minor is played with dexterity and clarity and with a clever build-up of registration. And the memorable Fugue based on a theme from Corelli’s Op 3, shows Bach’s indebtedness and interest in contemporary Italian developments.


Gary Higginson

 



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