Georg MUFFAT (1653-1704)
Apparatus musico-organisticus (1690)
CD 1
Toccata Prima [5:20]
Toccata Secunda [5:09]
Toccata Tertia [5:55]
Toccata Quarta [5:23]
Toccata Quinta [5:45]
Toccata Sexta [9:41]
Toccata Septima [9:52]
Toccata Octava [6:46]
CD 2
Toccata Nona [6:30]
Toccata Decima [5:09]
Toccata Undecima [6:36]
Toccata Duodecima et ultima [6:23]
Ciacona [4:29]*
Passacaglia [11:41]*
Nova Cyclopeias Harmonica [4:46]*
Tobias Lindner (organ and harpsichord*)
rec. October 2004, Former St. Mary of the Assumption Abbey, Irsee (Eastern Allgaeu, Swabia)
ORGANUM MUSIKPRODUKTION OGM 292016 [54:19 + 46:12]

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 enjoyable.

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 art interpretation.

Dominy Clements

A genuine lode of superb music making, stunning organ sounds and state of the art interpretation.