Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Organ Works - Volume 15
From Clavierübung Chorales
Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir, BWV 686** [5:33]
Kyrie, Gott Vater in Ewigkeit, BWV 669** [3:02]
Christe, aller Welt Trost, BWV 670** [3:59]
Kyrie, Gott heiliger Geist, BWV 671** [4:44]
From Leipzig Chorales:
Komm, heiliger Geist Herre Gott, BWV 652* [6:45]
Fantasia on Komm, heiliger Geist, BWV 651* [6:11]
Trio Sonata No. 2 in c minor, BWV 526 [12:39]
Trio Sonata No. 6 in G, BWV 530 [14:13]
Hans Helmut Tillmanns (organ)
rec. June 2010. Mönch Organ at St. Maria Königin in Kerpen-Sindorf, Germany*; Romanus Seifert Organ at Klosterkirche Maria Magdalena in Wuppertal-Beyenburg, Germany** DDD.

Like Gary Higginson, reviewing Volume 8 (DACOCD608 – see review), I must first mention some peculiarities. The booklet is still the same kind of odd affair that GH mentions, with just half a page of information on Bach and his music and the same glum photograph of Hans Helmut Tillmanns as on the earlier volume on the back. The English is comprehensible but somewhat stilted. Odder still, however, is the fact that the two Trio Sonatas are played on two organs: in each case the first two movements are played on the Wuppertal-Beyenburg Seifert instrument and the finale, like the Chorales which open the CD, on the Mönch Kerpen-Sindorf instrument. As with the earlier CD, the stated time of 60:15 proves to be a little optimistic: my players reported 57:51.

The other reservation concerns the programme itself. With so much competition, any new recording of Bach’s organ music needs to be special to grab my attention. Kevin Bowyer’s complete recording for Nimbus does so by virtue of its availability at budget price in mp3 form and in sound virtually indistinguishable from the CDs (NI1721: Bargain of the Month – see review by myself and Kirk McElhearn).

Since writing that Bowyer review, I’ve added a Cambridge Audio 650BD to my setup, which not only plays Blu-ray and SACD brilliantly, it also makes a good job of mp3 CDs, provided that the music is not continuous over tracks. That makes it ideal for playing the Nimbus Bach, but not for the Hallé mp3 version of Götterdämmerung – you have to drag and drop that to your computer and play via something like Squeezebox to avoid minute gaps between tracks.

Tillmanns plays well – very well even – but so do many of his rivals; there’s nothing that I can describe as special here. I’m not sure, for example, who would want just two of the Trio Sonatas when these glorious works fit so neatly on a single CD and two such collections have recently been added to the catalogue, Lorenzo Ghielmi on Passacaille PAS967 and Benjamin Righetti on K617 K617223, in addition to the Brook Street Band’s realisation on Avie AV2199 – see February 2011 Download Roundup.

I haven’t yet heard either of the new organ recordings but I do know and can recommend Christopher Herrick’s 1989 recording of the complete Trio Sonatas on Hyperion CDA66390. That’s available only from the special order archive at present: it may reappear on the budget Helios label, but it can be downloaded in good mp3 or even better lossless sound for £7.99 from Hyperion – here. Hyperion’s new download manager makes the process simple, even if you’ve never downloaded before.

However, to strike a more positive note in a review where I seem unintentionally to have been damning with faint praise, since no-one else matches Tillmanns’ programme, if the menu appeals to you, I can recommend this CD. Not only are the performances very good, the front cover is graced by an attractive colour photograph of the 1693 case of the 1970 Seifert organ, with a monochrome illustration of the 1996 Mönch inside and, even better, full specifications of each organ, but no details of the registration for each piece. More to the point, they prove to be ideal instruments for the performance of Bach.

The recording is excellent. Apart from the oddities which I’ve mentioned, which are unimportant in the overall scheme of things, if the programme appeals, this latest volume will satisfy. If in doubt, this and the earlier volumes in the series can be heard via the Naxos Music Library, where you can also find the booklet – bear in mind that the CD sound is better than the limited mp3 from NML, though if you follow the download purchase button to, you’ll find it there in very acceptable 320kb/s mp3 format, again with the booklet.

Brian Wilson

If the programme appeals, this latest volume in a developing series will satisfy.