It’s difficult not to admire somebody who records such a variety
of keyboard instruments on a single disc. Still, I can’t help
feeling that either the organ playing, or the harpsichord playing
is almost always going to come off second best in such a release.
Sometimes the player has the wherewithal to make the essential
technical and musical differentiation when approaching the different
instruments. Too often however the harpsichord playing affects
the organ playing, or, less often, vice versa.
This is perhaps
a case in point. Of Roland Dopfer we are told nothing. This
is a pity as he is a very talented musician whose elegant harpsichord
playing in particular impresses. The organ playing I enjoy less.
Dopfer’s technique serves him technically very well; listen
to the way the extremely difficult 4th trio sonata
of Bach is dealt with. However, in terms of approaching the
organ with a sufficiently complex vocabulary of articulation
to make it a truly dynamic instrument, I feel that Dopfer falls
short. His touch is a little rough, his tempi are always on
the fast side, especially in the Lübeck - where the sound, especially
in the pedal, suffers as a result - and to a lesser extent in
the trio sonata. Listen also to the shapeless, or at least very
equal left-hand semiquavers in the curiously aggressive performance
of the Kerll pathos-filled Passacaglia at 2’40; on the harpsichord
this sort of approach is much more effective than on the organ.
Also the clipped and square opening of Sweelinck’s Ballo
del Granduca is on the ugly trumpet stop.
Dopfer finds an intimacy necessary to bring the music to life
in such a dry modern room. The rarely performed preludes of
Hanff are beautifully played, and the orphaeic charm of Palestrina’s
Ricercata is well captured.
Of the instruments,
pride of place goes to the clavichord, made in 1724 by Peter
Weidtman. Dopfer’s virtuosity seems here to be better applied
in Sweelinck’s variations on Onder een linde groen, where
his control of the sound is very fine. The harpsichord was made
in 2003 by Detmar Hungerberg, as a sort of mid-eighteenth century
Italian copy of the Florentine instrument in the instrument
museum of Leipzig University. Regarding the organ I have mixed
feelings. A small Seifert instrument (2/13) from 2003, it has
the following synoptic specification:
HW: 8 8 4 4 2 IV
Hinterwerk: 8 4
II (Sesquialtera) 2
Ped: 16 16 (Posaun)
The 8’stops and
the plenum have character and charm. The reeds are less successful
as I’ve already alluded to. In such a small organ, a pedal with
more independent potential would surely have been more useful;
an 8’ trumpet in the pedal at least, perhaps even in place of
the 16’ reed. This little organ, with its asymmetrical case,
flexible winding system and colourful temperament (Bach-Fischer)
provides colour and interest aplenty without ever reaching the
heights of Ahrend, Fritts, Pasi, van Eeken et al.
It’s difficult to
sum up my thoughts about this diverse release. The organ is
good, though I prefer slightly the stringed instruments. Dopfer’s
playing, especially of fast movements, lacks elegance and monumentality
on the organ, though he fares better in slower pieces, and on
the stringed instruments in general.
The recording and
booklet are good though the lack of biography of the performer
is a shame.