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Johan Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Clavier Ubung III

Praeludium pro Organo pleno BWV 552a [12'14]
Kyrie Gott Vater in Ewigkeit, canto fermo in soprano a 2 Clav e Pedale BWV 669 [4'25]
Christe, aller Welt Trost, canto fermo in Tenore a Clav e Pedale BWV 670 [5'43]
Kyrie, Gott heiliger Geist, canto fermo in Basso, Con Organo Pleno BWV 671 [5'48]
Kyrie, Gott Vater in Ewigkeit, manualiter BWV 672 [2'25]
Christe, aller Welt Trost, manualiter BWV 673 [1'47]
Kyrie, Gott heiliger Geist, manualiter BWV 674 [2'06]
Allein Gott in der Hoh sei Ehr:

Canto fermo in alto BWV 675 [4'46]
a 2 clav e Pedale BWV 676 [8'13]
Fughetta manualiter BWV 677 [2'27]
Dies sind die heil gen zehn Gebot:

Canto fermo in Canone a 2 Clav e Pedale BWV 678 [5'47]
Fughetta manualiter BWV 679 [2'14]
Wir glauben all an einen Gott:

In Organo Pleno BWV 680 [3'30]
Fughetta manualiter BWV 681 [1'29]
CD 2
Vater unser in Himmelreich:
a 2 Clav e Pedale BWV 682 [8'35]
manualiter BWV 683 [1'40]
Christ unser Herr, zum Jordan kam:

a 2 Clav Et Canto fermo in Pedale BWV 684 [4'57]
manualiter BWV 685 [2'27]
Aus tiefer Noth schrei ich zu dir:

a 6, In Organo Pleno con Pedale doppio, BWV 686 [7'18]
manualiter BWV 687 [8'10]
Jesus Christus unser Heiland:
a 2 Clav. e Canto fermo in Pedale BWV 688 [4'35]
Fuga manualiter BWV 689 [7'50]
Duetto I BWV 802 [2'22]
Duetto II BWV 803 [4'00]
Duetto III BWV 804 [3'10]
Duetto IV BWV 805 [5'00]
Fuga a 5 pro Organo Pleno BWV 552b [8'19]
Francis Jacob, organ
rec: St Louis en L'isle, Paris, 2005. DDD
ZIG-ZAG TERRITOIRES ZZT 050901 [6111 + 7047]

Earlier this year I wandered into St Louis en L'isle in Paris in order to gaze at Bernard Aubertin's extraordinary new (2005) organ. The sight is truly a feast for the eye, Aubertin's case, a very very clever mix of Northern and Southern stylistic elements, fits aesthetically so well into the church, completed in 1726, that it is hard to believe that it is a new addition to the building's interior. The organ consists of 51 stops on 3 manuals; a Positif de Dos, a so-called Positif interieur above the console, with the Grand Orgue at the top of the case. The Pedale is housed in 16' towers.

Now we have a chance to listen to it, and it doesn't disappoint. Aubertin is an Alsatian organ builder and his organs have always mixed French and German elements. In his Paris organ, probably his most prestigious contract to date, he set out to build an organ with the music of J.S. Bach and the organs of Zacharias Hildebrandt as its chief influences. In addition some Northern stops, as described by Praetorius in the Syntagma Musicum are included. One's first reaction to the sound of the organ has to be an immediate realisation that this is an extraordinarily mature piece of organ building, more so than Aubertin's remarkable earlier instruments in Vichy and Vertus for example. The spirit of Hildebrandt's magnum opus in Naumburg hangs over the organ but one never gets the impression that this is simply a slavish copy of that wondrous instrument. The Naumburg organ was itself re-born just five years ago and caused a sensation - surely the ultimate Bach-organ in the world, (and Bach himself was of course involved in the design). When a highly significant organ restoration has a profound effect on new organ-building, this must be rejoiced. In Paris, the simply monumental plenum underpinned by the 32' Dulciane is utterly sensational. But also the individual registers; the singing Principals, the extraordinary variety of the flutes, including the Allemande with its pronounced transient, rather like Schnitger's Querfloit, the variety in the reeds, the Naumburg Unda Maris ... That such sounds come from a new organ in Europe must surely turn heads. That such sounds come from a new organ on the Ile St-Louis in Paris is revolutionary. I believe this organ will become an icon of its time.

The third part of the Clavier Ubung is a highly appropriate way to introduce this organ to its public. The playing of Francis Jacob, a former student of Jan Willem Jansen and Jean Boyer will raise some eyebrows however. I have a recording of Francis Jacob playing Bach in 2000 on the Ahrend organ in Toulouse. His playing is brisk and very French. But in the five intervening years his playing has turned on its head. He now favours extraordinarily slow tempi, rather like Wolfgang Rubsam's Bach recordings for Naxos. The Praeludium, at over 12 minutes, must be one of the slowest ever recorded, and, like the Fugue, and the large Aus tiefer Noth feature the 32' reed from beginning to end. How astonishing that a young French organist should play in such a monumental way, even taking a 16' in the Left Hand of the larger 'Christ unser Herr zum Jordan Kam'. Very Dutch! Some of the tempi, in the larger 'Vater Unser' for example, I grew to like in a hypnotic sort of way. Elsewhere I find the lack of movement disturbing. Some other eccentricities; the exaggerated staccato in the manualiter 'Allein Gott', and the registration changes during the Duetti for example, I cared for less.

The presentation is beautiful, and in general this is an extraordinary release. The playing is too mannered to make it recommendable as your only Clavier Ubung III, although much is admirable. But it is the magnificent new Parisian sound of Aubertin's masterpiece that make this so unmissable.

Chris Bragg



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