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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
The Works for Organ

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Volume 1
Toccata and fugue in d minor, BWV565 [8:54]
Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir, BWV1099 [2:23]
Concerto No.1 in G, BWV592, after a concerto in G by Prince JOHANN ERNST of Sachsen-Weimar (1696-1715) [8:59]
Trio Sonata 1 in E flat, BWV525 [13:24]
Pastorella in F, BWV590 [15:01]
Erbarm dich mein, O Herre Gott, BWV721 [5:30]
Fantasia and fugue in g minor, BWV542 [12:23]
Kevin Bowyer (organ)
rec. Skt. Hans Kirke, Odense, Denmark, 20-22 May 1991. DDD.
NIMBUS NI5280 [67:11]


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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Volume 2
Prelude and fugue in G, BWV541 [7:30]
Trio Sonata V in C, BWV529 [16:41]
Ein’feste Burg ist unser Gott, BWV720 [3:07]
Fugue in G, BWV577 [3:31]
Prelude and fugue in A, BWV536 [6:36]
Von Himmel hoch, BWV738 [1:11]
In dulci jubilo, BWV751 [1:53]
In dulci jubilo, BWV729 [2:11]
Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, BWV697 [0:44]
Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, BWV722 [1:19]
Prelude and Fugue in D, BWV532 [9:55]
Kevin Bowyer (organ)
rec. Skt. Hans Kirke, Odense, Denmark, 1991-1992. DDD.
NIMBUS NI5289 [55:32]


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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
The Works for Organ (MP3 Edition)
Kevin Bowyer (organ)
with Det Fynske Kammerkor/Alice Joensen (in Das Orgel-Büchlein, CD2, tracks 25-69)
rec. Skt. Hans Kirke, Odense, Denmark, May 1991-September, 2001. DDD.
NIMBUS NI1721 [8 CDs: 30:52:00]
[Equivalent to the 17 volume CD series]

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[Is there a complete set of Bach’s organ music which I prefer, ignoring price differentials for the moment? I think not. Can any other complete or reasonably complete set match the Nimbus mp3 set for value? Nothing approaches it, even as a download, though you may wish to supplement it with some of the recordings which I mention below. Even if you decide to supplement these readings, or already have several recordings of Bach’s organ music in your collection, this is an absolutely essential purchase. It’s not only my Bargain of the Month, it’s almost certain to be my Bargain of the Year, too. BW referring to the mp3 edition]
 
Kevin Bowyer’s Bach recordings have been at the top of a distinguished pile for some time now; three volumes are included among the inexplicably sparse Nimbus representation in the current (2010) Gramophone Guide. I singled out his contribution to The Spirit of Christmas Present (Nimbus NI7034 – see review) as the highlight of that CD and praised the parent disc from which those excerpts were taken, Christmas Organ Music (NI7711 – see review). The two settings of In dulci jubilo on NI7711 were recorded at Chichester and are taken slightly faster than the Odense recording on Volume 2 of the complete set, presumably to allow for different reverberation periods. Certainly both sound very well in context.
 
Volume 1, presumably planned as an introduction to the whole series, contains a reasonable cross-section of Bach’s organ music. It was almost inevitable that it should open with the Toccata and fugue in d, BWV565; even though modern scholarship tends to doubt that Bach composed this, at least in its organ form, it makes a wonderful opening to the programme. Of all the scores of performances that I have heard – at least a dozen of them currently in my collection on CD and as downloads, and 46 versions listed in the Naxos Music Library alone – this is as good as any.
 
Bowyer’s performance is close to the median time for this work – his 8:54 compares, for example, with 9:28 from Walcha, whose Bach recordings remain my benchmark. Walcha’s BWV565 is available on DG Archiv Originals 457 7042 at mid price, coupled with the ‘St Anne’ Prelude and fugue and the ‘Schübler’ Chorales. It used also to be available on an inexpensive DG twofer, 453 0642, which can still be downloaded in good mp3 sound from passionato.com. Walcha’s earlier mono recordings, dating from 1947-52, previously issued by DG Archiv, are available in a 10-CD box from Documents (223489, around £24 in the UK); in that set, Walcha performs BWV565 in a slightly more youthful 9:17.
 
Timings for BWV565, in fact, vary widely: at one extreme, Wolfgang Rübsam (Naxos 8.553859) takes 10:07 and Jacques van Oortmerssen takes 10:11, while on two inexpensive 2-CD anthologies which I recently reviewed together, Lionel Rogg takes just 8:20 (EMI Gemini 2642892) and Marie-Claire Alain is even more expeditious at 8:05 (Warner Maestro 2654 68975-5).
 
Chapuis on a 14-CD set is faster still at 7:50 – I listened to his version via Naxos Music Library and thought that the music, especially in the Toccata, sounded perfunctory at this speed, though I admired the deft finger-work which achieved it (Astrée Auvidis V4864, apparently no longer available on CD, but BWV565 is available as a download from classicsonline on a single CD, V5101). The mystery or miracle is that Hans Fagius, a few seconds faster still (7:54), manages to avoid making the Toccata anywhere near as perfunctory as Chapuis. (Complete Organ Music, Volume 6, BIS-CD-397-98, 2 CDs).
 
Bowyer’s Marcussen organ is a mightier beast than Alain’s at St Bavokerk, Haarlem, or Rogg’s at St Peter’s, Geneva, though he never over-uses the facilities at his command. The full specification is given in the Nimbus booklets, though the registration chosen for individual pieces is not given, and Bowyer gives a brief raison d’être for his choice of the instrument.
 
Oortmerssen’s BWV565 appears on Volume 4 of his Bach recordings (Challenge Classics CC72061), to which I listened courtesy of the Naxos Music Library. I reviewed Volume 8 of this series (CC72153) and found his touch and registration rather too heavy for my liking; though on that volume he plays the organ at St Bavo which Alain employs, his approach to Bach is altogether heavier than hers. His version of the d-minor is played on the 1743 organ of the Bovenkerk at Kampen; though the registration is lighter than at St Bavo, I found his performance overall just a little too ponderous, with a dogged approach to the fugue – but not by the same margin that I expected, given the differences on paper in timings.
 
Clearly this is one of the works where a wide latitude of timings can be made to sound right, given a sympathetic approach. It’s not only Bowyer’s timing which, like Walcha’s, falls between the two extremes – somewhere in that range is about right, I think – his whole approach, including registration, is lighter than Oortmerssen’s but a little fuller than Alain’s or Rogg’s.
 
One final comparison for the moment: Peter Hurford, another of my benchmark Bach organists, also falls in that middle ground between the extremes, at 9:18. His opening is a little deliberate but that underlines his grandiose view of the whole work, with guns blazing from the start. His 2-CD set on Double Decca 443 485-2, for around £9, offers a very useful supplement to the Bowyer, especially as he plays a variety of organs. His complete set (444 410-2) remains available on 17 CDs at around £100 – a bargain, though at four times the price of the Nimbus mp3 discs.
 
I have spent a long time discussing the d-minor Toccata and Fugue, BWV565, because I believe that it typifies Bowyer’s approach to Bach’s organ music and his performance of it. It is rare for one performer to sustain a high standard of performance across the whole œuvre – I note and share my colleague Paul Shoemaker’s distrust of complete recordings, as expressed in several of his reviews of Bach’s organ music, but I also note and share his positive view of anything that he has heard from Bowyer or Walcha. I would also add to that list of exemptions Peter Hurford (see above) and Simon Preston, whose 14-CD set may not be as complete as Bowyer’s, though it offers a strong challenge. (Very recently reissued on DGG Collectors Edition 477 8628, for around £60 in the UK; don’t buy the more expensive version of the same set, which remains available.) Preston’s BWV565 is also available on a budget-price DGG Entrée CD, perhaps an even better introduction for the beginner than the first volume of the Nimbus series and less expensive. (471 7342). His version of BWV565 is a little on the fast side at 8:25, but it deserves to be ranked with the best of Bowyer’s rivals.
 
In the rest of the music on Volume 1 Bowyer again seems to fall happily into the middle ground of interpretations without ‘middle’ becoming at all synonymous with ‘mediocre’. There are two chorale preludes, one of the organ concertos ‘after’ contemporary composers – this one designed to flatter his pupil, Prince Johann Ernst, without becoming at all workaday in either Bach’s or Bowyer’s hands – a Trio Sonata, a Pastorella or Pastorale, and, to round off the CD, a Fantasia and fugue.
 
The Pastorella, BWV590, is the one item where I have residual doubts. On paper, Bowyer’s tempo looks too slow by comparison with Wolfgang Rübsam, who takes just 12:43 and yet sounds suitably pastoral and laid-back, with light registration, on the Flentrop Organ of Oberlin College (Naxos 8.550184). Bowyer’s tempo and registration do sound just a little heavy by comparison, but only when heard straight after Rübsam.
 
Lionel Rogg, on a deleted Harmonia Mundi CD of Christmas Chorales, does sound just a little too fast in this work, though, like Bowyer he brings out the drone bass, imitative of the slow movement of Italian Christmas concertos, which gives the work its title. That criticism apart, Rogg’s collection on the Arlesheim Silbermann Organ is well worth looking out for as a remainder or second hand. (HMA190717).
 
Simon Preston, on his Entrée CD or the complete set, opts for the most delightful registration for the first section of the Pastorella, but at the expense of the drone effect which Bowyer captures so well, even though Graham Dixon’s notes to the original full-price release of Preston’s CD point to the importance of the drone. Perhaps you just can’t reproduce every aspect of this charming piece.
 
The second Nimbus CD, too, offers a range of JSB’s organ music and once more demonstrates Bowyer’s easy mastery of them all – two more Preludes and fugues, a Trio Sonata, a Fugue in G, and several Chorale Preludes, three of which (Vom Himmel hoch, BWV738 and the two versions of In dulci jubilo, BWV751 and 729) justify the stained glass picture of the Nativity on the cover of the CD, though this should not be taken as indicating that the whole CD is of Christmas music.
 
The two conventional CDs are just the first volumes in Kevin Bowyer’s complete performance of all Bach’s extant works, plus some which have been attributed to him. Apart from a few oddities – the keyboard ricercare from The Musical Offering sound somewhat marooned apart from their parent work, for example – everything here is well worth having. There are seventeen volumes in all, some of them 2- or 3-CD sets, a monumental undertaking and one which potentially consumes a good deal of shelf space.
 
Now there is an answer which reduces that space and cost considerably: as with the complete Haydn symphonies (NI1722), Nimbus have reissued the complete set in mp3 format, using the highest possible bit-rate, 320kbps, on eight CDs. The complete set complete with pdf notes is available direct from Musicweb International for £23 post free, as also is the Haydn set. For a price comparison, if you download each of the constituent volumes in the same high-quality 320k mp3 from classicsonline, each volume costs £7.99, with 2-CD volumes at £15.98 and 3-CD sets at £23.97, and there are no notes.
 
Most of the remaining volumes in the series offer a variety of forms, in the manner of Volumes 1 and 2 – for example, the Organ Concertos and Trio Sonatas are spread across several volumes, instead of being contained together, as is the norm. Even the recently-discovered ‘Neumeister’ Chorales, from the so-called Arnstadter Orgelbuch are scattered across several CDs. These used to be available as a set on two Arte Nova CDs, played by Wilhelm Krumbach, who discovered the collection, but they seem to have been deleted. In any case, Bowyer’s performances provide ample compensation and he does gather the five items from the related Rinck Collection together.
 
There are logical exceptions to the principle of variety: it would have been capricious to have separated the works of the Orgel-Büchlein, BWV599-644, which are performed together on mp3 disc 2. These performances can be heard without break on mp3, whereas the conventional set involves a side-change. Similarly, Clavier-Übung III (CD3, trs.30-55), the 18 Leipzig Chorales (CD4, trs.1-18) and the 20 sections of the Art of Fugue, BWV1080, plus Wenn wir in höchsten Noten sein, BWV668a (CD8, trs.1-21) are contained together. The rest of CD8 is taken up by the pdf and Excel documentation to which I refer below.
 
The second CD of the mp3 set offers the usual mix of musical types on Recitals 5 and 6 –Volumes 5 and 6 of the complete series on conventional CD. The remainder of that disc is taken up with the Chorale Preludes of the Orgel-Büchlein, BWV599-644, a series of short, mostly early (1713-16) organ meditations on the Chorales appropriate to various Sundays and Feast Days of the calendar, commencing with Advent Sunday (Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV599).
 
The Orgel-Büchlein was dedicated by Bach ‘dem höchsten Gott allein zu Ehren / Dem Nechsten, draus sich zu belehren’, to the glory of God and for the edification of his neighbour – to teach the latter how to compose such works – but most listeners can happily forget their didactic purpose. This is not the baroque organ equivalent of those Czerny Studies with which young pianists are tormented, but attractive and varied music.
 
It has been suggested that the pedals of the New Year Prelude, In dir ist Freude, BWV615, are imitative of a peal of bells and that the Cymbelstern stop of the Weimar organ would have been employed to achieve this effect, an opportunity not available to Bowyer on the Odense organ. Wolfgang Rübsam, who usually offers workmanlike if unspectacular recordings of Bach, not only also fails to achieve the bell-effect, he sounds positively lumbering in comparison with Bowyer. (Das Orgelbüchlein, Volume 1, Naxos 8.553031). Chapuis’s performance is much livelier – like Bowyer’s, this is a performance befitting a joyful occasion – but the very light registration which he chooses for the pedal part means that it is almost inaudible.
 
The Prelude on Ich ruf’ zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV639, from this collection, takes the form of a Trio in the then unusual key of f minor. Here again Bowyer’s performance is expeditious without losing any of the music’s affective power; he is just a little slower than Chapuis and Rübsam.
 
Each of the Preludes is preceded on Nimbus by singing of the appropriate Chorale, very competently managed by Det Fynske Kammerkor, the Chamber Choir of Fünen, under the direction of Alice Joensen. With the possible exception of the missed opportunity of reproducing the bell-like sound of BWV615, Bowyer’s performances are all of the same high standard that we have come to expect from the earlier volumes. I’m not sure that he would see off the best of the opposition in every piece, but I didn’t find him wanting in even one of these 146 Preludes.
 
Malcolm Proud plays about half the pieces from Clavier-Übung III on Maya Recordings MCD0803 – see review. I liked that selection but marginally preferred Walcha’s complete set and I marginally prefer Bowyer for the same reason, that he is just a little more fleet of foot in the main. Like Proud, Bowyer sandwiches the Clavier-Übung between the two parts of the ‘St Anne’ Prelude and Fugue, BWV522/i and ii; he also includes the Duetti, BWV802-5. Once again, this section can be heard straight through on the new mp3 issue, whereas it takes up two CDs, NI5561/2.
 
The Leipzig Chorale Preludes also receive excellent performances – among the best that I have heard. The three works from this collection, BWV662-664, which Oortmerssen includes on CC72153 (see above) are among the best things on that CD, but once again Bowyer is a degree faster without losing the reflective nature of the music.
 
The first part of Disc 8 of the mp3 collection is taken up with The Art of Fugue, BWV1080. Though there will always be debate about what instrument(s) Bach intended for this work (if, indeed, any specifically), the organ seems to me to provide the neatest solution. Here the obvious comparison is with Helmut Walcha, who spreads the work over more than one CD: Contrapunctus 1-17 take 77:07 and the remaining 4-part Fugue a further 8:43. Bowyer is consistently slightly faster than Walcha: in Contrapunctus 1, for example, his 3:17 compares with Walcha’s 3:48, but I never felt that he was rushing things simply to fit the music on one CD. That cannot, in any case, have been a motive, since the Art of Fugue spills over from CD2 to CD3 of the original Volume 17, though it could have been fitted on just one disc. In neither Bowyer’s nor Walcha’s performance is the Art of Fugue made to sound dry and academic.
 
The 2-CD set of Walcha remains a recommendable purchase on DG Original Masters 477 6508, especially if you like your Bach a little slower and statelier than Bowyer’s. As well as The Art of Fugue it contains Trio Sonatas Nos.1 and 6, the Prelude and Fugue, BWV547, Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, BWV564, and concludes with the d-minor Toccata and Fugue, BWV565. Deleted on disc, it can be downloaded from the DG Webshop for €12.99 or from passionato.com for £12.99. I recommended it in my July 2009 Download Roundup, but please note that the revamp of the passionato site means that the URL is now to be found by clicking here, if the original hyperlink no longer works.
 
Pressed to make an impossible choice, I marginally prefer Bowyer to the slightly more deliberate Walcha, especially as some of the items on the DG set, including BWV565, duplicate the Walcha recordings which I have listed above. Walcha’s 1955, early stereo recording, of course, predates Bowyer’s by quite a margin, but I found that the passionato 320k mp3 reproduced the sound of his Schnitger organ at Alkmaar almost as well as the Nimbus mp3s reproduce Bowyer’s. On neither recording will the sound quality interfere with your enjoyment of the respective performances. After the abrupt ending of the incomplete Contrapunctus 18, Bowyer rounds off his performance with an ethereal reading of Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein, BWV668a. Scholars may sniff at the inclusion of this work, a variant of the incomplete Vor deinen Thron, BWV668, as the conclusion of the Art of Fugue – it’s in the wrong key, for a start – but it makes a wonderful postlude and his sons chose to include it in their posthumous edition.
 
One or two other brief comparisons. Excellent as are Bowyer’s performances of the organ concertos which he ‘borrowed’ from Vivaldi, et al, there is an old recording which, I think, excels them, made by Anton Heiller for the Vanguard label in the 1960s, currently available in a budget-price 2-CD set ATMCD1249, coupled with the 2-, 3- and 4-keyboard orchestral concertos. I can’t vouch for the current release, but the solo concertos still sounded excellent in a former CD reincarnation on VECD7515. I had thought to retire that CD off to the charity shop, but rehearing it alongside Bowyer has made me rethink.
 
Ideally, I should have liked to play the mp3 discs on the same setup that I normally use for listening to CDs, but neither the Arcam Solo in one room nor the Marantz CD deck in the other room will play mp3s. I do, however, have a Sony CD/CDR-recording deck connected to the Arcam and a DVD player connected to my other system, so that, in each case, I could at least play the mp3s via the usual amplifier and speakers. With the two-tray Sony, I could even load the CD in one tray and the mp3 in the other and switch between them.
 
The result? I could distinguish no appreciable difference between them, which hardly surprised me, because I had already come to the same conclusion concerning the ‘near-CD-quality’ versions in the Naxos Music Library. Subscribers may wish to try those first, though that will only whet your appetite for the complete set.
 
I have left one comparative version of the d-minor Toccata and Fugue, BWV565, until now because it, too, exists in my collection in a format other than CD: I included the complete recording Toccatas and Fugues, played by Christopher Herrick on Hyperion CDA66434, in my Top 30 Hyperion Downloads. Herrick takes 2:51 for a slightly deliberate account of the Toccata and his nimble-fingered Fugue takes 5:53. Hearing him again immediately after the Nimbus leads me marginally to prefer Bowyer, but I still couldn’t bear to tear myself away from hearing the rest of Herrick’s programme. As the Nimbus set is so inexpensive, you will be able to afford to supplement it and the Herrick is one of those recordings which I recommend for that very purpose.
 
In any case, the point of the comparison was also between the Nimbus CDs, Nimbus mp3 and Hyperion lossless (flac) download. Organ music is not the easiest to record, but, granted that no ordinary-sized listening room could reproduce the acoustic of a church, all three created a very reasonable illusion in my study. Allowing for the fact that Herrick’s Swiss organ is a different-sounding instrument from Bowyer’s at Odense, I found little or no advantage in the Hyperion lossless flac over the 320k Nimbus mp3.
 
Younger, keener ears might just spot the difference between the CDs and mp3s, or distinguish Nimbus’s mp3 from Hyperion’s lossless flac, but the few 320k mp3s which I’ve tried from Hyperion also sound excellent – and mp3 is more versatile, if you are concerned about the size of download files or want to play the music on your mp3 player.
 
The notes by Wilfred Mellers in the individual CDs of Volumes 1 and 2 are detailed, readable and informative. To have reproduced them in full in booklet form for the complete mp3 set would have taken up too much space, but they are included in the 42,000-word documentation on CD8, from which they can be called up in pdf format and printed out on A4. The documentation on CD8 also includes an Excel spreadsheet which lists the works in three ways. There is also a printed booklet with brief notes and a listing of the complete contents of each ‘recital’, as the original CDs are named here. I was surprised to find so few typos in these listings – freundenreich for freudenreich as the title of BWV 719 is a minor error indeed. Believe me, typing out all the details at the end of this review was onerous, and I may have included a few typos of my own.
 
The short booklet included with the mp3s also includes the specification of the Odense organ. As on the individual CD booklets, the stop names are given in Danish, but these are mostly close enough to the normal German and French names by which the stops are known to cause little trouble. (The 8’ stop labelled Gedakt, for example, is usually known as Gedeckt.) I take the stop labelled Spidsfløtje to be the same as the Spitzflöte, also known as the Flûte conique or Spire flute.
 
Do I think that there are performances of individual works which are more to my liking than Bowyer’s? Assuredly. Is there a complete set of Bach’s organ music which I prefer, ignoring price differentials for the moment? I think not. Can any other complete or reasonably complete set match the Nimbus mp3 set for value? Nothing approaches it, even as a download, though you may wish to supplement it with some of the recordings which I have mentioned above. Even if you decide to supplement these readings, or already have several recordings of Bach’s organ music in your collection, this is an absolutely essential purchase. It’s not only my Bargain of the Month, it’s almost certain to be my Bargain of the Year, too. For beginners and seasoned collectors alike, this is an essential purchase. Now try Kevin Bowyer’s equally revelatory recordings of Alkan’s organ music on Nimbus (NI5089) and Toccata (TOCC0030 – see review and my November 2009 Download Roundup – and TOCC0031 – see review).
 
Brian Wilson

Kirk McElhearn has also listened to the MP3 set
 
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
The Works for Organ
Kevin Bowyer (organ)
rec. 1991-2003, Sct. Hans Kirke, Odense, Denmark
NIMBUS NI-1721 [8 MP3 CDs: 30:54:00]
 
Following the success of Nimbus' re-release of their set of Haydn symphonies, conducted by Adam Fischer on MP3 CDs, Nimbus now comes up with another bargain in this format. This 8-CD set of Kevin Bowyer's recordings of Bach's organ works covers nearly 31 hours of music, and is presented in 320 kbps MP3 files. (For those who are interested, the files are encoded with LAME 3.97, using - preset insane). In our review of the Haydn symphonies, reviewer Dominy Clements compared some of the original CDs and the MP3 files, and concluded, "To be entirely honest, I couldn’t really spot any advantages or disadvantages in either in terms of absolute quality." I will echo his comments, having compared the MP3 files of this set to a few of the original Nimbus CDs. Not only do these MP3 files sound excellent, but very few people could reliably spot which files were which in a blind test.
 
So assuming you take advantage of this wonderful bargain, what will you find in this set? The two 4-disc boxes house 8 CDs that you copy to your computer. You can add the MP3 files to whichever music-player you use, iTunes, Windows Media Player, or any other program. You can also play the CDs on DVD players, and car audio systems; some CD players - often in all-in-one stereo sets - also play MP3 CDs now as well. Navigation will depend on your actual player, and if you use a DVD player, you may need to turn on the TV to choose which tracks you want to listen to.
 
If you put the music into a program like iTunes, here's what you'll see:

 

 
The music is "tagged" quite well; in other words, the MP3 files contain the information you need to identify what you want to hear. One problem, however, is that each MP3 disc is labelled as such. In other words, disc 1 is the first disc of MP3 files, not the original disc that the music was released on. In the included booklet you'll find the original track listings for the CDs, most of which are listed as "Recitals." You can group the tracks of an album, and either change the album names for the digital files or make playlists, to make it easier to listen to. With nearly 31 hours of music, you won't just want to start at the beginning and play it all through. In addition, each MP3 disc contains around 4 hours of music, so you will probably not want to leave the music filed like that. Also, there is no album art (cover graphics) included with the files. This is a shame, but you can add your own from the Nimbus web site. In addition to the music, disc 8 includes a PDF file of liner notes, some 42,000 words worth. It’s in a small-enough font that you probably would be better off reading on-screen rather than printing it out. You also get an Excel spreadsheet file which lists the music by track number, title and BWV number. Altogether, this set weighs in at over 4.5 GB for 506 files - including the notes and spreadsheet.
 
It’s worth noting that Bowyer’s set, at nearly 31 hours, is close to twice as long as most of the other “complete” sets of Bach’s organ works. This is because he plays a number of spurious and mis-attributed works, as well as some works that are generally not played on organ, such as the Toccatas BWV 910-916.
 
So what about the performances? We only have a couple of them on review (review 1; review 2) but they are generally considered to be one of the finer series of Bach's organ works. I didn't listen to this set extensively, but what I did listen to I enjoyed a great deal. I have a number of sets of Bach's organ works, and this one stands out by virtue of the fact that all the music was recorded on a single organ (Sct. Hans Kirke, Odense, Denmark). Many, if not most, other sets are recorded at a variety of locations. This gives different colours to the individual discs, but lacks overall unity. Here, the organ itself is beautiful, and the recording is spacious but without too much reverberation. Bowyer's choice of registrations, tempi and phrasing are attractive throughout. You seriously couldn't go wrong with this set, at a price below that of two audio CDs.
 
Kirk McElhearn
 

 
Complete mp3 track listing:
 
Disc 1
 
Recital 1 – as per Volume 1 above
 
Recital 2 – as per Volume 2 above
 
Recital 3
Prelude and fugue in f minor BWV 534 [9:05]
Trio Sonata II in c minor BWV 526 [13:30]
Partite diverse sopra il Corale Sei gegrüsset, Jesu gütig, BWV 768 [19:57]
Concerto in D minor after Antonio VIVALDI, RV565, BWV 596 I [10:35]
Prelude and Fugue in a minor BWV 543 [9:55]
 
Recital 4
Toccata in g minor BWV 915 [9:31]
Fugue in b minor on a theme by Tomaso ALBINONI [6:40]
Fugue in c minor BWV 575 [4:12]
Eight ‘Short’ Preludes and Fugues BWV 553-560 [31:24]
Fantasia and Imitatio in b minor BWV 563 [5:25]
Fugue in A on a theme by ALBINONI BWV 950 [6:24]
Toccata in G BWV 916 [9:40]
 
Disc 2
 
Recital 5
Concerto in a minor, after VIVALDI, RV522, BWV 593 [11:42]
Prelude and fugue in d minor, BWV 539 [6:41]
Herr Gott, dich loben wir (Te Deum) BWV 725 [8:31]
Fugue in G, BWV 576 [4:01]
Aria in F, after François COUPERIN, BWV 587 [3:17]
Christ lag in Todesbanden, BWV 718 [4:17]
Jesus, meine Zuversicht, BWV 728 [2:03]
Christ ist erstanden, BWV 746 [1:42]
Toccata and fugue in F, BWV 540 [13:50]
 
Recital 6
Toccata, adagio and fugue in C, BWV 564 [5:32]
Trio Sonata in G, BWV539 [13:04]
Prelude and fugue in e minor, BWV 533 [4:43]
Trio in g minor, BWV 584 [3:16]
Prelude and fugue in g minor, BWV 535 [6:44]
Fantasia super Valet will ich dir geben, BWV 735 [3:34]
Valet will ich dir geben, BWV 736 [4:57]
Partita Wenn wir in hochsten Noten sein, BWV Anh.78 [5:42]
Toccata in E, BWV 566 [9:18]
 
Das Orgel-Büchlein, BWV599-644 [112:00]
with Det Fynske Kammerkor/Alice Joensen
 
Recital 7
Fugue in c minor, BWV 574 on a theme by Giovanni LEGRENZI [5:58]
Concerto in F, BWV 978 after Antonio VIVALDI [7:26]
Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier, BWV 731 [3:05]
Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend, BWV 709 [2:17]
Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend, BWV726 [0:48]
Prelude and fugue in b minor, BWV 544 [11:12]
Gott ist mein Heil, mein Hilf und Trost, BWV 1106 [1:45]
Herzlich lieb hab ich dich, o Herr, BWV 1115 [2.23]
Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan, BWV 1116 [2:19]
Trio Sonata in G, BWV 1039/1027a [12:05]
Prelude and fugue in C, BWV 547 [8:54]

Recital 8
Prelude and fugue in C, BWV 531 [5:29]
An Wasserflüssen Babylon, BWV 653b [5:30]
Wir glauben all‘ an einen Gott [Schopfer Himmels und der Erden], BWV 765 [2:50]
Wir glauben all’ an einen Gott, BWV 1098 [2:53]
Fantasia and fugue in c minor, BWV 537 [7:37]
Six Chorales ‘von verschiedener Art’ (‚Schübler-Chorales‘), BWV645-650 [16:40]
Prelude and fugue in a minor, BWV 895 [2:56]
Toccata and fugue in d minor, ‘Dorian’, BWV 538 [12:09]
Prelude in E-flat, BWV552/i [8:38]
 
The Third Part of the Clavier-Übung BWV669-88 [76:47]
Duetto in e minor, BWV 802 [2:09]
Duetto in F major, BWV 803 [3:19]
Duetto in G major, BWV 804 [2.44]
Duetto in A minor, BWV 805 [2:37]
Fugue in E flat major (‘St. Anne’), BWV 552/ii [6.51]
Concerto in G, BWV 973, after Antonio VIVALDI [7:50]
Fugue in g minor, BWV 578 [4:05]
Passacaglia and fugue in c minor, BWV 582 [12:20]
 
Disc 4
The Eighteen Chorale Preludes from the Leipzig autograph, BWV651-668a [85:26]
Fugue in A, BWV 949 [4:10]
Wenn dich Unglück tut greifen an, BWV 1104 [1:15]
Wie nach einer Wasserquelle, BWV 1119 [1:14]
Ach Gott, tu dich erbarmen, BWV 1109 [2:25]
Als Jesus Christus in der Nacht, BWV 1108 [2:19]
Concerto in C, BWV 594 after VIVALDI, RV208 [17:21]
 
Recital 9
Prelude and fugue in e minor, BWV 548 (The ‘Wedge’) [12:29]
Ach, was ist doch unser leben, BWV 743 [2:11]
Fughetta: Herr Christ, der ein'ge Gottes Sohn, BWV 698 [1:08]
Herr Jesu Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn, BWV Anh: 55 [1:45]
Meine Seele erhebt den Herrn (Fuga sopra il Magnificat), BWV 733 [4:02]
Canonic Variations on Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her, BWV 769 [10:25]
Fantasia and fugue in a minor, BWV 904 [6:58]
Trio in d minor, BWV 583 [5:20]
Prelude and fugue in c minor, BWV 546 [10:19]
 
Recital 10
Toccata in c minor, BWV 911 [10:29]
Trio in b minor, arranged from BWV 790 [2:27]
Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten, BWV 691 [1:34]
Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten, BWV 690 [2:22]
Nun lobe meine Seele den Herrn, BWV Anh: 60 [3:05]
Fuga super Wir glauben all an einen Gott, BWV Anh: 70 [1:39]
Fugue in b minor (on a theme by Arcangelo CORELLI), BWV 579 [4:51]
Fughetta: Das Jesulein soll doch mein Trost, BWV 702 [1:41]
Six Organ Chorales from the Neumeister Collection:
Machs mit mir, Gott, nach deiner Güt, BWV 957 [2:08]
Herr Gott, nun schleuss den Himmel auf, BWV 1092 [1:57]
Nun lasst uns den Lieb begraben, BWV 1111 [2:27]
Christus, der ist mein Leben, BWV 1112 [2:03]
Ich hab mein Sach Gott heimgestellt, BWV 1113 [2:19]
Alle Menschen müssen sterben, BWV 1117 [1:53]
Prelude in C, BWV 943 [2:27]
Fugue in C, BWV 953 [1:31]
Two Organ Chorales from the Neumeister Collection:
Christe, der du bist Tag und Licht (Wir danken dir, Herr Jesu Christ), BWV 1096 [3:37]
Werde munter, mein Gemüte, BWV 1118 [1:42]
Nun ruhen alle Wälder, BWV 756 [1:10]
Toccata in e minor, BWV 914 [7:05]
 
Disc 5
 
Recital 11
Fantasia (Pièce d'orgue) in G, BWV 572 [7:44]
Trio Sonata No: 4 in e minor, BWV 528 [10:21]
Fantasia and fugue in C, BWV 570/946 [5:45]
Toccata in f sharp minor, BWV 910 [9:27]
Aria variata in a minor, BWV 989 [7:26]
Fuga chromatisch bearbeitet, BWV Anhang 44 [5:30]
Kleines harmonisches Labyrinth, BWV 591 [3:59]
Fugue in g minor, BWV 131a [2:37]
Allabreve in D, BWV 589 [3:16]
Fantasia (Concerto) in G, BWV 571 [6:44]
 
Recital 12
Prelude and fugue in G, BWV 550 [5:40]
Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her, BWV 700 [2:44]
Fughetta: Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her, BWV 701 [1:23]
Wir Christenleut, BWV 1090 [1:52]
Wir Christenleut habn jetzund Freud, BWV 710 [1:41]
Capriccio in E, BWV 993 [5:51]
Fantasia and fugue (fragment) in c minor, BWV 562 [5:53]
Partita on Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr, BWV 771 [17:56]
Trio Sonata No: 3 in d minor, BWV 527 [12:25]
Prelude and fugue in C, BWV 545 [5:13]
Recital 13
Partita: O Gott, du frommer Gott, BWV 767 [14:11]
Canzona in d minor, BWV 588 [6:31]
Ach, Gott, und Herr, BWV714 [2:43]
Ach Gott vom Himmel sieh darein, BWV 741 [4:31]
Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend, BWV 655c [1:41]
O Vater, almächtiger Gott, BWV 758 [4:15]
Trio in c minor (after Johann Friedrich FASCH) BWV 585 [5:24]
Herr Jesu Christ, meines Lebens Licht, BWV750 [1:18]
Prelude in a minor BWV 569 [5:26]
Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verberbt, BWV 1101 [3:50]
Vater unser im Himmelreich BWV 762 [2:56]
Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verberbt BWV 705 [3:05]
Toccata in d minor BWV 913 [13:00]
Wo soll ich fliehen hin BWV 694 [3:28]
Christ, der du bist der helle Tag BWV 1120 [1:54]
Prelude and Fugue in a minor, BWV 551 [5:08]
 
Recital 14
Prelude in G, BWV 568 [2:58]
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland BWV 699 [1:08]
Nun freut euch, lieben Christen g'mein BWV 734 [3:27]
Lob sei dem allmächtigen Gott BWV 704 [1:12]
Gottes Sohn ist kommen BWV 703 [0:50]
Partita: Herr Christ, der einig Gottessohn BWV Anh 77 [11:37]
Concerto in d minor (after Benedetto MARCELLO) BWV 974 [10:31]
Auf meinen lieben Gott BWV 744 [1:25]
In dich hab ich gehoffet, Herr BWV 712 [1:54]
Toccata in D major BWV 912 [11:41]
Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern BWV 739 [4:25]
Jesu, meine Freude BWV 1105 [1:47]
Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern BWV 763 [1:34]
Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich BWV 732 [1:05]
Christum wir sollen loben schon BWV 696 [1:30]
Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ BWV 723 [2:35]
Jesu, meine Freude BWV 713/Anh 76 [5:23]
Prelude and Fugue in a minor BWV 894 [10:22]
 
Disc 6
 
Recital 15
Prelude and Fugue in c minor BWV 549 [5:36]
Christ lag in Todesbanden BWV Anh 171 [4:56]
Fugue in G, BWV 581 [1:23]
Du Friedefürst, Herr Jesu Christ BWV 1102 [2:16]
O Herre Gott, dein göttlich's Wort BWV 757 [1:39]
O Herre Gott, dein göttlich Wort BWV 1110 [2:03]
Fugue in D, BWV 580 [3:32]
Organ Chorales from the Rudorff Collection:
Herzlich tut mich verlangen or Ach Herr, mich armen Sünder BWV Anh 47 [4:52]
Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott [3:07]
Herr Jesu Christ, wahr' Mensch und Gott [1:25]
Es spricht der Unweisen Mund [1:50]
Der Tag der ist so freudenreich or Ein Kindelein so löbelich [2:12]
Ach, was ist doch unser Leben BWV 743 (Variante) [1:38]
Ach, was soll ich Sünder machen [3:02]
Trio in G (after G.P. TELEMANN) BWV 586 [4:13]
Gott der Vater wohn uns bei BWV 748 [3:59]
Auf meinen lieben Gott [1:08]
Christ lag in Todesbanden BWV 695 [4:31]
Prelude and Fughetta in d minor, BWV 899 [2:56]
Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier BWV 754 [4:04]
Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier BWV 730 [1:44]
Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend BWV 749 [1:17]
Fantasia and Fugue in A minor BWV 561 7:56

Recital 16
Concerto in C (after Prince JOHANN ERNST) BWV 595 [4:12]
Prelude and fugue in e minor, BWV 533a [4:54]
Fantasia in g minor BWV 917 [1:57]
Partita on Christ, der du bist der helle Tag BWV 766 [9:30]
Fugue in C, BWV 952 [1:59]
Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr BWV 711 [2:51]
Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr BWV 716 [2:54]
Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr BWV 717 [2:53]
Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr BWV 715 [1:29]
6 pieces from the Anna Magdalena Bach Notebook:
Minuet in G, BWV Anh 114 [1:38]
Minuet in g minor, BWV Anh 115 [1:39]
Minuet in G, BWV Anh 116 [1:58]
March in D, BWV Anh 122 [1:02]
Musette in D, BWV Anh 126 [0:57]
Minuet in d minor, BWV Anh 132 [0:59]
Concerto in E flat, BWV 597 [6:54]
Ich hab mein Sach Gott heimgestellt BWV 707 [4:56]
Partita on Aus der Tiefe rufe ich BWV 745 [2:37]
Christus, der uns selig macht BWV 747 [3:14]
Trio in D minor (early version from P1115) BWV 528/ii [4:23]
Prelude and fughetta in e minor, BWV 900 [4:28]
Ach Herr, mein armen Sünder or Herzlich tut mich verlangen BWV 742 [1:56]
Concerto in g minor (after TELEMANN) BWV 985 [7:30]
 
Recital 17
Partita: Ach, was soll ich Sünder machen?, BWV 770 [12:32]
Fantasia in c minor, BWV 1121 [3:18]
Fugue in g minor on BACH, BWV Anh 109 [2:14]
Trio in c minor, BWV Anh 46 [2:47]
Ouverture (Suite) in F, BWV 820 [9:49]
Jesu, der du meine Seele, BWV 752 [1:22]
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 660b [2:30]
Der Tag, der ist so freudenreich, BWV 719 [2:03]
Fantasie über ein Rondo in C minor, BWV 918 [4:59]
Fugue in D, BWV 532a / ii [4:16]
O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig, BWV 1085 [4:10]
Ich hab’ mein’ Sach’ Gott heimgestellt, BWV 708 [0:54]
Herzlich tut mich verlangen, BWV 727 [2:05]
Fugue in C, BWV Anh 90 [2:15]
Fugue in c minor on a theme by LEGRENZI, BWV 574a [5:50]
Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend, BWV 655b [1:41]
Prelude, Trio and Fugue in B flat, BWV 545b [10:58]

Recital 18
Fughetta in c minor, BWV 961 [1:43]
Erhalt uns, Herr, bei deinem Wort, BWV 1103 [1:50]
Allein zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 1100 [2:19]
O Jesu, wie ist dein Gestalt, BWV 1094 [3:00]
Herr Jesu Christ, du höchstes Gut, BWV 1114 [2:53]
Sonata in D, BWV 963 [10:10]
Vater unser im Himmelreich, BWV 737 [2:20]
Fantasia on Komm, Heiliger Geist, BWV 651a [2:41]
Komm, Gott, Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist, BWV 667b [2:00]
Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier, BWV 706 [2:34]
Concerto in G, BWV 986 [5:01]
Gott, durch deine Güte (Gottes Sohn ist kommen), BWV 724 [1:33]
Nun freut euch, lieben Christen, BWV 755 [3:31]
The Organ Chorales from the Rinck Collection
I - Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ - Aria [1:57]
II - Komm heiliger Geist, erfüll die Herzen [2:08]
III - Auf meinen lieben Gott - Arioso [1:19]
IV - Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn [1:53]
V - Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn - Aria [1:45]
Fugue in a minor, BWV 947 [3:40]
Wir glauben all’ einen Gott, Vater, BWV 740 [4:48]
Prelude in C, BWV 567 [1:28]
Fugue in e Minor, BWV 956 [3:10]
Ehre sei dir, Christe, der du leidest Not, BWV 1097 [2:30]
Herzliebster Jesu, was hast du verbrochen, BWV 1093 [1:59]
Jesu, meines Lebens Leben, BWV 1107 [1:47]
O Lamm Gottes unschuldig, BWV 1095 [2:06]
Das alte Jahr vergangen ist, BWV 1091 [2:14]
 
Disc 7
 
Recital 19
Concerto in D major after VIVALDI, BWV 972 [8:12]
Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten BWV 691a [2:15]
Prelude and Fugue in C, BWV 545a [5:08]
Prelude in A, BWV 536a/i [1:51]
Ich ruf’ zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ BWV Anh 73 [4:02]
An Wasserflüssen Babylon BWV 653a [4:57]
Passacaglia in d minor, BWV Anh 182 [6:28]
Fugue in c minor on a theme by LEGRENZI, BWV 574b [6:41]
Vater unser im Himmelreich BWV 683a [1:59]
Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr BWV 676a [2:00]
Ich hab mein Sach Gott heimgestellt BWV 708a [0:43]
Fugue in d minor, BWV Anh 180 [6:07]
Ach Gott und Herr BWV 692 [1:26]
Ach Gott und Herr BWV 693 [1:39]
Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele BWV 759 [3:10 ]
Vater unser im Himmelreich BWV 760 [1:57]
Vater unser im Himmelreich BWV 761 [3:48]
Fantasia and Fugue in d minor, BWV 549a [5:18]
Fugue in e minor, BWV 962 [3:34]
Concerto in C after Prince JOHANN ERNST, BWV 984 [8:32]

Recital 20
Prelude in a minor, BWV 543a/i [3:07]
Prelude and Fugue in g minor, BWV 535a [4:37]
Valet will ich dir geben BWV 735a [3:23]
Christ lag in Todesbanden BWV 695a [3:11]
Pedalexercitium BWV 598 [1:50]
Fantasia in C, BWV 573 [0:58]
Jesu, meine Freude BWV 753 [1:45]
Wie schön leucht uns der Morgenstern BWV 764 [1:19]
O Trauerichkeit, O Herzeleid BWV Anh 200 [0:20]
Jesu Leiden, Pein und Tod BWV Anh 57 [4:37]
18 Stücke für eine Spieluhr (Pieces for a mechanical clock), BWV133-150 [21:35]
Fugue in B flat on BACH, BWV Anh 45 [2:55]
Toccata in A, BWV Anh 178 [5:37]
Drei Ciacone, BWV Anh 82-4 [14:07]
Prelude and Fugue in B flat on BACH, BWV 898 [5:08]
Prelude and Fugue in E flat, BWV Anh 177 [5:06]
 
Recital 21
Ricercare in 6 voices (Organo pleno) BWV 1079/v [7:49]
Prelude and Fughetta in F, BWV 901 [1:22]
Fugue in B flat, BWV 955 [4:37]
Prelude and Fughetta in G, BWV 902 [4:15]
Fugue in d minor, BWV 948 [3:28]
Fugue in a minor, BWV 958 [3:01]
Praeludium et Partita del tuono terzo BWV 833 [6:55]
Fugue in B flat, BWV 954 [4:58]
Fugue in e minor, BWV 945 [2:53]
Fantasia in c minor, BWV 919 [1:28]
Prelude in G, BWV 902a/i [1:24]
Fantasia and Fugue in a minor BWV 944 [7:07]

Recital 22
Fantasia in a minor, BWV 922 [6:25]
Capriccio sopra la lontananza del fratello dilettissimo (Capriccio on the departure of a beloved brother) BWV 992 [11:14]
Ricercare in 3 voices BWV 1079/i [5:37]
Ricercare in 6 voices (Alternative registration) BWV 1079/v [7:42]

Disc 8
 
Die Kunst der Fuge (The Art of Fugue) BWV 1080 [79:06]
 


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