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Sounds Baroque
Toccata Secunda [5:41]
Henry PURCELL (1659-1695)
Voluntary in G
François COUPERIN (1668-1733)
Kyries, (Messe pour les Paroisses)
: Plein chant du premier Kyrie, en Taille [1:15]; Fugue sur les jeux d’anches [2:06]; Recit de Cromhorne [2:21]; Dialogue sur la trompette et le Cromhorne [1:50]; Plein chant [1:11]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Allein Gott in der Hőh sei Ehr BWV 663 [6:42]
Toccata and Fugue in D minor BWV 538: Toccata [5:19]; Fugue [7:50]
Jesu, meine Freude BWV 753 (completed Charleston) [2:29]
Johann Philipp KIRNBERGER (1721-1783)
Ich dank dir schon [2:10]
Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend BWV 709 [2:49]
Georg BÖHM (1661-1733)
Prelude and Fugue in C major: Prelude [2:02]; Fugue [2:37]
Komm, Gott, Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist BWV 667 [2:36]
Benedictus Cromhorne en Taille (Messe pour les Parroisses) [4:05]
Carl Phillip Emanuel BACH (1714-1788)
Sonata in A
Wq 70/4: Allegro Assai [4:43]; Adagio [3:16]; Allegro [3:18]
Musical Circle [3:23]
John STANLEY (1712-1786)
op. 7 No. 7: Diapasons Adagio [1:54]; Cornet [2:30];
Voluntary op. 7 No. 9: Largo staccato [1:01]; Vivace [2:41]
Terence Charleston, organ
Rec: St Saviour:s Church, St Albans, 11-12 September, 10 October 2004. DDD
LAMMAS LAMM 181D [79:11]

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Lammas records



My biggest question about this disc is “why?” The focus of this rather haphazard collection of French, German and English music is slightly hard to pinpoint, the vague title, ‘Sounds Baroque’ not helping matters. The repertoire, consisting of “representative” works of Bach set against lesser-known works of others, spans an almost bizarrely broad spectrum; from Purcell to Couperin, to Böhm, to Carl Phillip, to John Stanley. Conceptually the CD seems to come from a bygone era, (“Hurford plays Casavant” or some such?). The bizarre mix of languages in the track listings adds to the feeling of uncertainty.

OK, what about the music-making and the instrument? I suppose if one wanted to choose a really international 18th century organ, Andreas Silbermann would be a good place to start. The current instrument is Peter Collins’s style copy in the St Saviour’s Church in St Albans. It sounds good here, some roughness in the reeds aside, but neither the individual stops, nor the choruses are of a quality that makes one want to listen to them for nearly 80 minutes, especially not in the relatively unfavourable acoustic environment. Why a real Andreas Silbermann organ wasn’t chosen is unclear, it almost smacks of laziness. While this would make an interesting concert programme on this instrument, we live in an age of wall-to-wall organ recordings, including recordings of virtually every wonderful historic organ one could imagine. There is simply no reason to record this music on a lesser organ.  Predictably some music is better served than others; Muffat, Kirnberger, and to a slightly lesser extent Couperin, sound more convincing than the late 18th century offerings, either in the Sturm und Drang of C.P.E. Bach, or the more introverted, or at least English, gallant style of Stanley.

The playing is a rather mixed bag in general. My biggest single problem relates to Charleston’s pedal playing. His manual articulation is for the most part highly developed; his variety of attack and release enables him to express crescendi, diminuendi etc without problem. His pedal playing is far less musical though. This is clearly evidenced in the Bach works. Take BWV 663 as an example. Here Bach uses the pedal in two quite distinct ways, firstly quoting directly from the cantus firmus, and secondly as the basso continuo. Charleston’s pedal playing, almost legato throughout no matter the intervallic structure, completely fails to make the distinction, and most seriously fails to express the beat hierarchy in the continuo sections. In the d minor fugue the pedal similarly fails to reflect the very logical articulation of the subject given in the manual at the beginning. Equally irritating in the otherwise well-paced fugue is a fussy registration scheme; no fewer than six changes, starting 8’4’ and ending with the plenum including the reeds. If the plenum isn’t beautiful enough to stand having the whole fugue played on it, surely the wrong organ was chosen?

In general Charleston’s playing is musical, neat, tidy, and sometimes, especially in Toccata and Fugue of Bach and the sonata of C.P.E. Bach, highly expressive. However the earlier literature suits him less well; the Couperin lacks the required flexibility in the tactus, the Böhm is too ordinary, especially in the free sections. The problem is partly due to the instrument, how, for example, can one very mild temperament - Vallotti - be expected to provide the required key colour for such a variety of music? In truth it provides very little. Overall however I feel that what is missing is an acute feeling for a variety of affekts on the part of the performer.

The booklet is excellent, but it doesn’t save an otherwise all too opaque release. 

Chris Bragg



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