This second volume in Ewald Kooiman’s traversal of
the complete Bach for organ includes some of the composer’s finest works
for the instrument - three of the six trio sonatas Bach composed around
1730. These works each contain three movements, and are among Bach’s
subtlest compositions for organ. They are not meant to be played with
large, forceful registrations - in fact, if played in this manner, their
detailed counterpoint would be lost in the reverberation. Played in
three parts - that is with each hand playing one voice and the feet
playing the third - these works are brilliant examples of both technical
and melodic mastery.
Kooiman plays these sonatas at relatively slow tempi,
which better highlights the subtle interplay of their voices. The haunting
middle movement of the first trio sonata takes on an almost lugubrious
sound, yet never gets too dark. However, at times these slow tempi seem
to betray the spirit of the sonatas. The third movement of the first
sonata sounds a bit slow, compared to the middle section. I tend to
appreciate this movement when it is played with a more lively tempo.
The same is true for the other sonatas - at times, the fast movements
seem a bit lacking in energy, while the slow movements tend to sound
much more appropriate. This is unfortunate, for with more energy in
the fast movements, this recording would be excellent.
The fantasias on this disc give a fine counterpoint
to the delicate harmonies of the trio sonatas. Fantasias are free, unfettered
works, where, as their name suggests, the composer is free to use all
of his imagination. Some of these fantasias are short - BWV 570 is merely
two and a half minutes long - but they contain a concentrated dose of
Bach’s genius. The fantasias on this disc are all works played relatively
slowly, and fit well with the trio sonatas, being at tempi that correspond
roughly to their middle movements. In addition, three of them are in
C minor, and one in C major, giving them a tonal relationship.
One comment about this disc - the trio sonatas are
recorded with all three movements on one track, which prevents the listener
from putting on a specific movement of these works. While this is not
often a problem, it can be annoying to some who occasionally want to
listen to just certain movements.
The organ used for this disc, and the excellent recording,
fit very well the intimacy of the trio sonatas. This second volume of
Ewald Kooiman’s complete series of Bach’s organ works shows that this
set is off to a good start. Overall, the selection of works on this
disc is quite effective, though the tempi for the fast movements of
the trio sonatas leaves something to be desired.
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