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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685–1750)
Bach i Ålem
Prelude and Fugue in D, BWV532:
1. Prelude [5:03]
2. Fugue [6:34]
Chorale from the Neumeister Collection:
3. Valet will ich dir geben BWV735 [4:29]
4. Med alla Herrens fromma (Rejoice, rejoice, ye Christians)(Chorale) [2:26]
Chorales from Dritter Teil der Klavierübung:
5. Kyrie, Gott Vater in Ewigkeit BWV 672 [1:42]
6. Christe, aller Welt Trost BWV 673 [1:43]
7. Kyrie, Gott heiliger Geist BWV 674 [1:36]
Two arrangements of Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr:
8. Binicium BWV 711 [3:13]
9. Chorale BWV 715 [1:45]
10. Allena Gud I himmelrik (All glory be to God in high) (chorale) [2:38]
Chorale from the Neumeister Collection:
11. Werde munter, mein Gemüte BWV 1118 [2:00]
12. Ljus av ljus, o morgonstjärna (Comfort, comfort ye my people)(chorale) [2:44]
13-14. Komm, Jesu, komm (motet) BWV 229 [8:25]
Chorale from Dritter Teil der Klavierübung:
15. Wir glauben all an einen Gott BWV 680 [3:22]
Chorale from Orgelbüchlein:
16. Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein BWV 641 [2:33]
17. Se, Jesus är ett tröstrikt namn (Oh, Jesus is our comfort)(chorale) [2:14]
18. Vater unser im Himmelreich BWV 762 [2:35]
19. Att be till Gud (God teaches us to pray)(chorale) [2:21]
Choral from Leipzigchoräle:
20. Nun danket alle Gott BWV 657 [4:19]
21. Nu tacka Gud allt folk (Now thank we all our God)(chorale) [2:40]
Concerto in G BWV 592:
22. Allegro [3:26]
23. Grave [2:46]
24. Presto [2:02]
Ulf Samuelsson (organ); Olaus Petri Vocalis (4, 10, 12–14, 17, 19, 21), Ålem Parish Choir (10, 17, 21), Johan Hammarström (organ)(13, 14)
rec. Ålem church, Sweden, 2005. DDD

Ålem is a fairly small parish in the province of Småland on the Swedish east coast. The 19th century church houses a very fine sounding and beautiful organ, originally built in 1942 by Per Zacharias Strand. Having gone through several modifications during the past century and a half it was renovated during 2003-2004 by the Ålem Organ Factory, rebuilding it to its original specification and adding a small second manual in the Strand style. In the spring of 2005 Ulf Samuelsson gave a recital on the organ and was then asked by the parish board to make a recording on the “new” instrument. This disc is the result.
Samuelsson wanted to design the programme as a service, beginning and ending with a couple of large-scale organ works and in between there are hymns, prayers and even a sermon in the middle in the shape of the motet Komm, Jesu, komm, sung by the vocal group Olaus Petri Vocalis, founded by Ulf Samuelsson and based in the Olaus Petri church in Örebro in central Sweden, where Samuelsson has been organist since 1992. They also sing three four-part chorale settings by Bach and are joined by the Ålem Parish Choir in three other chorales, sung in unison.
The Olaus Petri Vocalis, made up of sixteen singers, is highly professional with a lean, homogenous sound in the best Swedish choral tradition. The chorales sung in unison are performed with enthusiasm and rightly not too sophisticated, as they would be during a real service with a congregation present.
Proprius has for almost four decades been among the top contenders in choral and organ recording and this disc is in that Royal line. I have had several Proprius releases for review, both reissues and new productions and they have never disappointed. On this occasion my living-room was transformed into a middle-sized church with warm but still detailed acoustics, every stop distinct and still blending well and the pedal stops sonorous and full but not booming. The rear speakers conveyed a feeling of sitting somewhere in the middle of the room, immersed in the sound, radiating from all directions, as is often the experience in a church where the organ sound and placing is in full harmony with the room. How much balance engineer and producer Torbjörn Samuelsson has manipulated the sound I don’t know but Proprius practice has always involved a minimum of doctoring. At all events, after the first ecstasy has abated, one can just concentrate on and wallow in the beautiful sound of the organ.
The musical high-spot is the opening Prelude and Fugue in D Major, presumably written in Weimar around 1709. Ulf Samuelsson’s playing is virile and exuberant and he obviously takes as much delight in the music-making as the listener does. The various compositions based on chorales are less showy, intended for service, but they are enjoyable to listen to and Samuelsson’s registrations are sensitively done to bring out the character of each piece as well as showing the instrument in the best possible light. The chorales are brisk – no risk that the congregation will nod, The three movement Concerto BWV 592 has a light dancing Allegro, a beautifully transparent Grave. The Presto is a swinging conclusion to the concerto and also a fitting postlude to this service, where the uplifted church-goers can leave the temple, straight-backed and with a spring in their steps.
The chorales are sung in Swedish and the booklet provides no texts or translations, but this should be no obstacle to the enjoyment of this programme. On the other hand Professor Hans Fagius, well-known Bach interpreter, provides excellent commentaries on the organ pieces. Organ builder Sune Fondell gives a historical retrospective of the organ and the latest renovation work, including a list of the organ’s disposition, from which we learn that eight stops are originals from 1841.
Organ enthusiasts should give the disc a try, since this organ produces some of the loveliest sounds I have heard for a very long time. Readers who want a full musical service in their homes will have to search far and wide to find something better.
Göran Forsling




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