> Organ Masters Before BACH [KM]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Organ Masters Before BACH
1. BUXTEHUDE Prelude and fugue in D minor, BuxWV 140 -
2. PACHELBEL Chorale prelude O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig -
3. Vincent LÜBECK Prelude and fugue in E major -
4. Samuel SCHEIDT Chorale variation Jesus Christus, unser Heiland -
5. Nicolaus BRUHNS Prelude and fugue in E minor -
6. BUXTEHUDE Chaconne in C minor, BuxWV 159 -
7. Jan Pieterzoon SWEELINCK Fantasia cromatica -
8. Franz TUNDER Chorale prelude Komm, Heiliger Geist, Herre Gott -
9 BÖHM P relude and fugue in C major
10. PACHELBEL Chaconne in F minor -
11. BUXTEHUDE Passacaglia in D minor, BuxWV 161 -
Helmut Walcha, organ
Arp-Schnitger Organ, Cappel
Rec: no recording date - originally released in 1978.
DEUTSCHE GRAMMOPHON DG 469 764-2 [71.51]

The organ music of Johann Sebastian Bach stands as a singular monument both in the history of music for this instrument and in the career of Helmut Walcha. This excellent organist recorded all of Bach’s organ music (much of it several times), as well as most of his keyboard music on harpsichord.

Walcha lost his sight at an early age, and played music only through memory, helped by his mother and, later, his wife, who played the music on piano, one voice at a time. He later put the voices together, and developed a deeply unique appreciation of the texture of music.

Walcha did not record very much music by other composers. This disc, his last recording before his retirement at the age of 70, is an overview of the music that stands as a foundation for Bach’s great organ music. No one can deny the importance of Buxtehude in Bach’s career - Bach walked a long distance to meet his elder, and stayed with him for three months, absorbing much of his technique. Three works on this disc are by Buxtehude - a prelude and fugue, which fits the standard form for such works at that time, and two variation sets, the Chaconne in C minor and the Passacaglia in D minor. Buxtehude wrote many such works, both for organ and for harpsichord, where a basic melody is presented, then embellished, developed and extrapolated. Listening to these works, one cannot fail to appreciate how Bach must have felt listening to this combination of melodic beauty and contrapuntal complexity. Walcha gives works like this a rare balance, where the sum of the individual voices is much greater than the parts.

Other composers represented on this disc, which covers the period from the 16th to the 18th centuries, include such well known names as Johann Pachelbel and Georg Böhm, as well as lesser known composers such as Nicolaus Bruhns, Samuel Scheidt and Vincent Lübeck. The wide variety of music presented gives the listener a very good idea of what Bach heard and studied - music which had a great influence on his own compositions.

This budget disc is certainly a real bargain, combining Helmut Walcha’s masterful interpretations with a satisfyingly varied selection of music. Whether interested in discovering Bach’s influences, or simply curious to hear a fine selection of baroque organ music, this is a must-have recording.
Kirk McElhearn


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