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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Toccata and Fugue in d, BWV 565 (1709) [8.55]
Passacaglia and Fugue in c, BWV 582 (1716) [13.22]
Prelude and Fugue in D, BWV 532 (1709) [10.41]
Prelude and Fugue in a, BWV 543 (1709) [10.50]
Daniel Chorzempa, organ at Grote Kerk, Breda, Netherlands.
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Variations on “Wienen, Klagen, Sorgen, Sagen”, S179, R.382 (1863) [16.44]
Daniel Chorzempa, organ at De Doelen, Rotterdam, Netherlands.
Recorded August 1970. ADD
Remastered with the DSD system.
Notes in English, Deutsch, Français. Full organ specifications.
PENTATONE RQR SACD PTC5186 127 [60.19]


Comparison Recordings:

BWV 565, 582: E. Power Biggs, organ [ADD] CBS MK 42644
BWV 532, 543: E. Power Biggs, organ [ADD] CBS MK 42648
BWV 543: Carl Weinrich, Westminster mono LP
BWV 565 & 582: Helmut Walcha, [ADD] Archiv 2435 090-2
BWV 565: E. Power Biggs, pedal harpsichord, CBS LP
BWV 582: Anthony Newman, pedal harpsichord, CBS LP
BWV 565: Eugene Ormandy, Philadelphia, CBS mono LP
BWV 565: Guillou, Organ of St. Eustache. Dorian DOR-90134
Liszt: S.179 Jean-Pierre LeGuay, Organ of Notre Dame. Euromuses EURM 2014
Liszt: S.179 Gabor Lehotka, Jehmlich organ, Kecskemét. Hungaroton HCD 12562-2

We Bach lovers with our BWV numbers are a little like the old absurdist joke about the prisoners who tell jokes by the number.* So here are our old friends 565, 582, 543, and 532. Brings tears to the eyes, what? Well, something has to be done when your favorite composer has written 1,081 works (!) and every other one seems to be called “Wie Schön leuchtet der Morgenstern” or “Wachet Auf Ruft uns die stimme...” or “Meine Herze schwimmt im blut...” or “Himmelfahrts Oratorium...” or “Grosse Messe in h moll” or something equally vulgar and/or unpronounceable to many English speakers.

As with any piece of music that is played very frequently, the most severe obstacle for anyone performing old 565 is making it seem new, projecting some enthusiasm and sense of discovery. It is now my considered opinion that 565 and 582 were not originally written for organ. These days I prefer hearing them in their original instrumentation, whenever available. 582 is on most people’s short-list for the greatest piece of music ever written, and 565 is certainly one of the most popular organ pieces ever written. However BWV 532 and 543 were written for organ and sound wonderful here. Unlike some organ recordings, this disk sounds absolutely marvellous on the 5” woofers in my “D” system, that is, the speakers on my nightstand, yet on a surround sound system the disc produces a wide, room-filling, and deeply satisfying organ sound.

I can’t recommend the “complete” performances of the Bach works by Werner Jacob, Ton Koopman, Michel Chapuis, or Hans Fagius, although the Brilliant release of the Fagius recording is so low in price that you might as well buy it just to have one recording of all the organ works, and then you can fill in your collection as you discover particular performances of particular works that you particularly like. These complete versions cannot evade the fact that with so much music being played in such a short time the performer gets tired and the pieces tend to sound alike. I like everything I’ve heard from Lionel Rogg, Kevin Bowyer and Helmut Walcha but have by no means heard all of their recordings, and, in the case of the first two, not their recordings of the works on this disk. I don’t recommend Michael Murray playing Bach organ music, he has completely the wrong sense of rhythm however grand his command of the buttons and levers. Anthony Newman’s organ recordings of Bach are simply too fast, although his CBS LP of old 543 is impressive by any standard and his pedal harpsichord version of 582 is one of the great keyboard recordings of the 20th century. I don’t enjoy Stokowski’s orchestrations of any of these works, much as I admire him for playing them to popularize these works and create a demand for the real thing. Eugene Ormandy does a much finer job with the same orchestra, and I enjoy those versions as much as I do the organ versions. The Biggs recordings which sounded so good to us on LP definitely show their age now on CD, but are still worthy classics. 

The Guillou recording is perfect for someone who wants 565 in reverberant gigantic organ sound. It is also one of the best surround sound organ recordings I’ve ever heard, which is odd since there is no mention of surround-sound on the disk. Clearly engineers have made excellent progress in matching generic surround-sound processors with generic surround-sound encoders, so, as I have repeatedly advised, always try playing your new CDs with the surround-sound setting if you have one; you may be surprised and delighted by what you hear. 

Franz Liszt wrote only about half a dozen organ works and was never thought of as an organ composer during his lifetime. However his intense religiosity combined with his clear understanding of the theatrical power of the organ’s sound has led to nearly half his output entering the standard repertoire of virtuoso organists. This Liszt work is one of those “arrangements” that supposedly made the case that Liszt wasn’t really a composer at all. However, we note that the themes weren’t original with Bach, either. Liszt has re-registered and re-harmonized everything, and this work is now counted to be one of Liszt’s most successful and original compositions, and perhaps his most successful organ work, even more so than the Prelude and Fugue on BACH. Leguay and his gigantic instrument coupled with stunning performance and recording have produced a masterpiece. Your choice here is mostly on the size of your living room, whether you can convince yourself you’re really in Notre Dame, or a slightly smaller sound is more comfortable. The Lehotka is a fine, rather more introverted, closely recorded performance, but the smaller organ sound is just a little breathy and grainy.

Paul Shoemaker

*The new prisoner hears the prisoners in the other cells shouting numbers down the ventilating shaft, since there are no windows in their cells, and then he hears everyone laughing. His cell mate explains that they have assigned numbers to the jokes, and by yelling the number, they are telling jokes. The new prisoner hears someone call out “722” and everyone laughs, then “821” and everyone laughs, then “244” and everyone laughs. Finally some calls out “565” and everyone laughs except his cell mate. “Why didn’t you laugh at that one?” the new prisoner asks. The cell mate replies, “Because I’ve heard that one before.”


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