The Latin title Apparatus musico-organisticus translates roughly
and rather clumsily into “musical organ aid” but, like so many
of J.S. Bach’s organ works, they transcend their ‘study’ element.
They also, no doubt, held their own liturgical usefulness even
though Muffat’s duties were not officially part of the church.
Georg Muffat’s life is outlined in the fine booklet notes for
this release, telling us that the twelve Toccatas of the Apparatus
were written during the time of his employment at the court
of Salzburg, and presumably in contact with his colleague Heinrich
Ignaz Franz Biber. The newly published Apparatus was presented
to Emperor Leopold of Vienna in an apparent attempt to gain
favour and a new place of employment, but with no result he
soon took up the position of Hoffkapellmeister at Passau.
The toccatas are impressive organ works, the first eight written
on successive Church scales, the last four going beyond the
octave into transposed modes. While filled with plenty of technical
bravura, the general feeling is one of stately impressiveness.
Familiar baroque techniques abound, with ornamental variation
over chorale harmonies, counterpoint and fugati, as well as
some extremes of contrast, using the entire expressive range
of the organ.
The booklet goes into some detail about the Former St. Mary
of the Assumption Abbey at Irsee, and the fine-sounding mid-eighteenth
century instrument by Balthasar Freywis which it houses. With
around 70% of the original pipe-work preserved, a decently authentic
sound is pretty much guaranteed. The character of these recordings
is certainly one in which you can feel yourself carried along
on the waves of the past. The tuning has that slightly acidic
quality which changes subtly with each change in the tonality
of the toccatas. Through Tobias Lindner’s excellent playing
the whole effect is both pleasant and surprisingly stimulating.
The final group of pieces has no pedal indications. They have
several stylistic elements which would suggest harpsichord performance,
even though they are traditionally lumped in with the toccatas
and played on the organ. Tobias Lindner’s scholarly approach
is very much a part of the preparation of this recording, and
his performances of the Italianate Ciacona, the more French
flavoured Passacaglia and the pictorial Nova Cyclopeias Harmonica
are very convincing. The only minor oddity here is the transition
between organ and harpsichord, the latter every bit as loud
and closer in perspective to the listener in terms of the recorded
balance. The resonant character of the instrument used and the
lively and colourful nature of the performances far outweigh
any such considerations however, and the whole thing is highly
There are a very few recordings of the complete Apparatus musico-organisticus
around, though I should point out Martin Haselböck’s recording
on Naxos and Elisabeth Ullmann’s version on MDG, neither of
which I have to hand for comparison. This one has so many positive
qualities going for it that I have no hesitation in putting
it at the forefront. Just try the first tracks of either disc
and you can feel your Baroque divining rods crossing immediately.
Beautifully documented and presented, this is a genuine lode
of superb music-making, stunning organ sounds and state of the