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AVAILABILITY Organum Classics

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Concerto C-Dur BWV 594 [18:28]
Concerto a-Moll BWV 593 [12:58]
Concerto G-Dur BWV 592 [7:44]
Concerto C-Dur BWV 595 [10:28]
Concerto d-Moll BWV 596 [10:42]
Concerto F-Dur nach Italiaenischem Gusto BWV 971 [13:56]
Christoph Bossert (organ)
rec. Evangelische Stadtkirche, Bad Wimpfen, Germany. No date given. DDD

It's good to have another recording of the concertos so soon after Alessio Corti’s release on Concerto (see review).
The present recording by Christoph Bossert isn’t really a complete recording of the transcriptions; neither the trios of Fasch or Telemann, nor the Aria of Couperin feature here. On the other hand the remaining movements of the C major Ernst Concerto BWV 595 are included in an organ arrangement by the performer based on Bach’s harpsichord transcription of the work. The disc also features Bach’s own ‘Italian’ concerto, seldom played on the organ of course, but there’s no reason why it should be limited to performance on the harpsichord, and I like the result. In general then, Bossert wins points for originality.
For me, his ‘originality’ goes too far though. Bossert’s playing is typically characterised by a slightly eccentric approach to rhythmic expression – something which is lacking in the majority of performances of baroque music on the organ, I readily admit, but when applied as an integral, and ultimately personal means of expression, the beat hierarchy, or, equally importantly, the rhetorical gesture being expressed must be clear. The dramatic accent in other words is only dramatic if it contradicts a well articulated pattern of grammatical accents. Bossert’s mannered approach to tempo for me upsets the balance too much. What does happen at the beginning of BWV 592 for example? I can’t even analyse it. His basic tempi also seem sometimes bizarre, extremely slow in BWV593/ii, excessively quick in BWV 596/i.
The organ is also a curious choice. It must be said that it is a beautiful instrument, built in 1748 by one Johann Adam Ehrlich and provides an interesting example of Southern German organ building but with Thuringian elements. The first movement of BWV 594 reveals its idiosyncrasies from the outset. The chief problem lies with the mixtures. That on the Hauptwerk contains a 3, 1/5 tierce, despite the lack of any 16’manual stop on the whole instrument. Bossert explains it thus “The 16’third is chiefly based, logically, on the 16’Trombone pedal stop, resulting in a tremendously decisive and acoustically fascinating integration of the highest and lowest sounds of the whole organ” which may indeed be true when accompanying congregational singing, but less so one feels when used for the ripieno of the Vivaldi Grosso Mogul. However the confusion doesn’t end there. Bossert respects, quite correctly, the pitch relationship between orchestral and soloist of Vivaldi’s original score, by playing the concertino sections at 4’. In the third movement however he also takes the mixture of the Hinterwerk, which contains a normal tierce. The highest octave in particular sounds strange without the 8’ stop to say the least. The result is therefore a 16’ chorus without a 16’, played against an 8’ chorus without the 8’. The result is to my ear more than a little unsettling. Not because the organ lacks quality, far from it, but simply because its qualities have been, to my mind, mis-applied. I refer again to Pieter van Dijk’s recording (Hänssler edition CD 92.095), not because he was my teacher, but because his solution of using only the principal stops here provides a far more tellingly musical solution.
There are interesting elements here, but this is too eccentric to make it really recommendable.

Chris Bragg




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