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Andreas Bach Buch
Ciacona in c BuxWV 159 [6'05]
J.S. BACH (1685-1750) Fantasia in c BWV 1121 (Adagio) [3'24]
Johann C.F. FISCHER (c1670-1746) Praeludium and Ciacona [5'23]
J.S. BACH Fantasia and Imitatio in h BWV 563 [3'55]
Christian RITTER (c1645-c1725) Suite in F-sharp mineur [13'36]
Carlo Franceso POLLAROLO (c1653-1723) Capriccio (Allegro) [4'35]
Marin MARAIS (1656-1728) Suite d'Alcide (extracts) [7'42]
Johann Adam REINCKEN (1643-1722) Ballet (10 variations) [8'00]
J.S. BACH Toccata in c BWV 911
Benjamin Alard (organ and harpsichord)
rec: Saint-Etienne, Baigorry, France, 27-31 October 2005. DDD
HORTUS 045 [65'50]
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The Andreas Bach Buch is one of the most interesting sources of late 17th and early 18th century keyboard music. It was actually copied by Johann Sebastian's elder brother Johann Christoph (1671-1721) and bears the name of the latter's son, hence the title Andreas Bach Buch. It contains a bewildering array of pieces for different keyboard instruments. It provides, for example, a source for the Passacaglia of Bach, two of Buxtehude's Praeludia (BuxWV 137, 150) as well as his two Ciacconas and Passacaglia, and pieces by other Northern German composers including Reincken and Bohm. But perhaps the most interesting feature of the collection is its multi-nationalism. The keyboard transcription of the excerpts from Marais's opera 'Alcide' could be explained by the fact that French operas were performed at the time in Hamburg. The presence of the Venetian Pollarolo's Capriccio is harder to explain. The complete list of composers is very interesting so I'll give it here in the hope that you are similarly curious: Bach, Bohm, Buttstett, Buxtehude, Fischer, Kuchtenthal, Kuhnau, Marais, (transcription) Marchand, Pachelbel, Pestel, Pollarolo, Reincken, Telemann (transcription), Witt.

Hortus here present the astonishingly young (b. 1985) French organist and harpsichordist Benjamin Alard in an interesting selection of these pieces. Alard is a former student of Zehnder and Marcon at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, and is, at the age of just 20, the organist of the new Aubertin instrument in the Church of St-Louis-en-L'Ile in Paris, an instrument about which I waxed lyrical in a review last year.

Alard plays brilliantly here. I'm bound to say that I find his harpsichord playing more natural than his organ playing - he in fact won the International Harpsichord Competition in Brugge in 2004. His Buxtehude playing is very French, with many added complex ornaments. But Alard's organ playing is also first-rate. I like very much his choice to play the BWV 911 Toccata on the organ - this manualiter Toccatas of Bach are usually played on the harpsichord simply because of their manualiter status. The Dutch organist Reitze Smits, among others, has convincingly argued for their performance on the organ, and when you hear this recording of the c minor piece, you'll understand why.

I've written about the 1999 Mahler organ in Baigorry in another review and in this recording I'm even more taken with it. This two manual instrument inspired by 18th century Southern German organs sounds here profoundly beautiful.

Hortus produce yet another clever, relevant, interesting recording. The booklet is well presented though the English text is occasionally slightly warped. "Johann Sebastian Bach's early years were nothing but carefree" should of course read "Johann Sebastian Bach's early years were anything but carefree".

Chris Bragg


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