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Organum Classics


Claviermusik des Barock
Vincent LÜBECK (1654-1740)
Preambulum in E [6:03]
Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (c.1637-1707)
Passacaglia in d BuxWV 161 [6:14]
J.S. BACH (1685-1750)
Englische Suite Nr III g-moll BWV 808 [12:51]
Giovanni Perluigi da PALESTRINA (1526-1594)
Ricercata del settimo tono [2:30]
Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK (1562-1621)
Ballo del granduca [4:35]
Johann Nicolaus HANFF (15641-1712)
Choralvorspiel ‘Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott’ [4:12]
Triosonate Nr IV e-moll BWV 528 [11:14]
Johann Nicolaus HANFF
Choralvorspiel ‘Erbarm dich mein, o Herre Gott’ [2:24]
Jan Pieterszoon SWEELINCK
Onder een linde groen [5:02]
Aus dem Wohltemperierten Clavier Teil II
Praeludium G-dur BWV884 [1:42]
Fuge G-dur BWV 884 [1:13]
Johann Kaspar KERLL (1627-1693)
Passacaglia [5:25]
Roland Dopfer (organ, harpsichord, clavichord)
rec. Kath. Pfarrkirche St Albertus-Magnus, Düsseldorf-Golsheim (harpsichord, clavichord), Kath Kirche St Marien Korschenbroich-Pesch (organ)

It’s difficult not to admire somebody who records such a variety of keyboard instruments on a single disc. Still, I can’t help feeling that either the organ playing, or the harpsichord playing is almost always going to come off second best in such a release. Sometimes the player has the wherewithal to make the essential technical and musical differentiation when approaching the different instruments. Too often however the harpsichord playing affects the organ playing, or, less often, vice versa.

This is perhaps a case in point. Of Roland Dopfer we are told nothing. This is a pity as he is a very talented musician whose elegant harpsichord playing in particular impresses. The organ playing I enjoy less. Dopfer’s technique serves him technically very well; listen to the way the extremely difficult 4th trio sonata of Bach is dealt with. However, in terms of approaching the organ with a sufficiently complex vocabulary of articulation to make it a truly dynamic instrument, I feel that Dopfer falls short. His touch is a little rough, his tempi are always on the fast side, especially in the Lübeck - where the sound, especially in the pedal, suffers as a result - and to a lesser extent in the trio sonata. Listen also to the shapeless, or at least very equal left-hand semiquavers in the curiously aggressive performance of the Kerll pathos-filled Passacaglia at 2’40; on the harpsichord this sort of approach is much more effective than on the organ. Also the clipped and square opening of Sweelinck’s Ballo del Granduca is on the ugly trumpet stop.

Sometimes however, Dopfer finds an intimacy necessary to bring the music to life in such a dry modern room. The rarely performed preludes of Hanff are beautifully played, and the orphaeic charm of Palestrina’s Ricercata is well captured.

Of the instruments, pride of place goes to the clavichord, made in 1724 by Peter Weidtman. Dopfer’s virtuosity seems here to be better applied in Sweelinck’s variations on Onder een linde groen, where his control of the sound is very fine. The harpsichord was made in 2003 by Detmar Hungerberg, as a sort of mid-eighteenth century Italian copy of the Florentine instrument in the instrument museum of Leipzig University. Regarding the organ I have mixed feelings. A small Seifert instrument (2/13) from 2003, it has the following synoptic specification:

HW: 8 8 4 4 2 IV 8 (Trombetten)

Hinterwerk: 8 4 II (Sesquialtera) 2

Ped: 16 16 (Posaun)

The 8’stops and the plenum have character and charm. The reeds are less successful as I’ve already alluded to. In such a small organ, a pedal with more independent potential would surely have been more useful; an 8’ trumpet in the pedal at least, perhaps even in place of the 16’ reed. This little organ, with its asymmetrical case, flexible winding system and colourful temperament (Bach-Fischer) provides colour and interest aplenty without ever reaching the heights of Ahrend, Fritts, Pasi, van Eeken et al.

It’s difficult to sum up my thoughts about this diverse release. The organ is good, though I prefer slightly the stringed instruments. Dopfer’s playing, especially of fast movements, lacks elegance and monumentality on the organ, though he fares better in slower pieces, and on the stringed instruments in general.

The recording and booklet are good though the lack of biography of the performer is a shame.

Chris Bragg


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