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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Organ Works
Prelude and fugue in D (BWV 532)* [10:49]
Partita 'Ach, was soll ich Sünder machen' (BWV 770)* [14:38]
O Mensch, bewein dein Sünde groß (BWV 622) [04:41]
Prelude and fugue in d minor (BWV 539) [07:07]
Nun komm', der Heiden Heiland (BWV 659) [03:15]
Nun komm', der Heiden Heiland (BWV 661) [03:56]
Meine Seele erhebt den Herren (BWV 648) [02:01]
Puer natus in Bethlehem (BWV 603) [01:00]
Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her (BWV 606) [00:43]
Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar (BWV 607) [01:08]
Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g'mein (BWV 734) [02:31]
Prelude and fugue in g minor (BWV 535)* [07:29]
Hans Helmut Tillmanns (organ, Marcussen)
rec. January 2005, Christianskirken, Søderborg, Danmark (*);Margaretenkirche, Methler, Germany. DDD



Although the cover of this disc doesn't say so this is the 11th volume in a series of recordings of the complete organ works by Bach.

The biography of Hans Helmut Tillmanns in the booklet makes it crystal clear what one can expect from the performances on this disc: "In his interpretations he follows his great example and teacher Professor Helmut Walcha". I find this surprising: most first-rate teachers - which the late Helmut Walcha certainly was - don't expect their pupils to copy them, but rather encourage them to develop their own style of playing. Would Helmut Walcha have been happy to see someone trying to emulate him?

These remarks also tell us that the insights of the historical performance practice are completely ignored here. It doesn't come as a surprise that Tillmanns prefers two modern organs by the Danish builder Marcussen to record this selection.

The most prominent characteristics of Tillmanns' interpretations are a consistent legato playing and changes of registration within pieces. The booklet doesn't contain any information about the registrations used nor does it provide the listener with any details about the music.

The preludes and fugues are relative early works, written in the 'stylus phantasticus'; the trademark of the North-German organ school. The features of this style are frequent runs, sudden shifts in tempo and rhythm and the alternation of imitative and free improvisatory sections. All these features are seriously jeopardised here as a result of the Tillmanns’ undifferentiated playing style. All contrasts are flattened out mainly due to the lack of articulation and breathing spaces.

The chorale-based pieces do not fare any better: the chorale melodies are played in a way which ignores their vocal character. If one did not know that these are hymns one would not be able guess from these performances.

In addition to all this misery the technical quality is unacceptable. At the start one gets the impression this is a mono recording as the sound spectrum is very narrow. It gets a little better later on, but the sound quality is not up to today's standard. The second track (the fugue from BWV 532) is distorted by a pretty strong background noise. There are even crackles in several tracks which suggests one is listening to old vinyl. And then some cuts in the recording are clearly audible, in particular in the first track.

In the end these technical deficiencies do not really matter, as the interpretation does not do any justice to the character of these organ works by Bach.

Johan van Veen





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