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Editorial Board
Classical Editor
Rob Barnett
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
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MusicWeb Webmaster
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MusicWeb Founder
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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Organs, Toccatas and Fantasias - A musical journey through Bach’s Baroque Europe
Toccata in F major, BWV 540
Toccata & Fugue in D minor, BWV 565
Trio Sonata No. 1 in E flat major, BWV 525 (extracts)
Fantasia & Fugue in G minor, BWV 542 'Great' (extracts)
Chorale Prelude BWV 648 'Meine Seele erhebt den Herren'
Chorale Prelude BWV 639 'Ich ruf' zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ'
Chorale Prelude BWV 622 'O Mensch, bewein' dein' Sünde groß'
Marie-Claire Alain (organs)
Director: Bruno Monsaingeon
rec. 1990, various locations
Sound format: PCM stereo
Subtitle languages: EN, FR, DE
Picture format: 4:3
Picture standard: NTSC
Region code: 2, 3, 4, 5
WARNER MUSIC VISION 5186552092 [55:00]
Experience Classicsonline

I don’t understand much about how organs work: all those stops, the multiple keyboards, even the foot pedals. Of all the musical instruments, the organ is the most complex, and the most daunting, because outside of films like this, you rarely get to see much of it. In this short feature, Bruno Monsaingeon, well known for his documentaries featuring Glenn Gould and other musicians, follows Marie-Claire Alain, an excellent organist and interpreter of Bach, to a number of locations. She presents and plays Bach on a variety of organs, and briefly discusses how Bach’s life relates to the different organs visited.

Playing a number of complete works - such as the famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor - Alain shows off her skills on organs in different cities, including Dresden, Rötha, Haarlem and Gröningen. Monsaingeon uses many angles and shots to make these performances interesting to watch, though the quality of the playing is good enough to hold the viewer’s interest. Unfortunately, several of the performances are only extracts of works, or are interrupted by bits of interviews, so this isn’t really a film where you get many chances to appreciate the music in the round.

Alain is one of the 20th century’s leading interpreters of Bach’s organ music, and her passion for this music comes through in both her playing and her explanations. Watching her perform, one realizes just how difficult and complicated it is to play this instrument, and, in particular, Bach’s music.

Filmed in 1990, this program seems just a bit dated, technically, the sound is only in stereo and the format in 4:3. But Alain’s discussions of the instruments and the music make this a film full of insights that any fan of organ music will appreciate. It has even helped me better understand the way this complicated instrument works. While brief, those who love the organ will want to get this DVD to see the many excellent instruments that it features.

Kirk McElhearn 























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