Samples & Downloads
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C, BWV564 [14:45]
Organ Concerto in a minor (after Vivaldi), BWV593 [12:09]
Leipzig Chorale Prelude, BWV654, ‘Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele’
Prelude and Fugue in b minor, BWV544 [13:39]
Chorale Prelude, BWV682. ‘Vater unser im Himmelreich’ [6:46]
Prelude and Fugue in G, BWV541 [7:59]
Chorale Prelude, BWV622, ‘O Mensch, bewein’ dein’ Sünde groß’
Passacaglia and Fugue in c minor, BWV582 [13:10]
David Goode (Silbermann Organ, 1711-14, modified 1738)
rec. Freiberg Cathedral, 4-6 July 2010. DDD
Booklet includes organ specification
SIGNUM SIGCD261 [80:26]
I was about to write that this recording came fresh from David
Goode’s success as organist in the much-praised Hyperion recording
of Havergal Brian’s Proms 2011 Gothic Symphony – see
(Recording of the Month), review,
December 2011/2 Download
Roundup (Download of the Month) and January
Roundup – except that the Signum recording was actually
made a year earlier.
Having listened to the recording as streamed from the Naxos
Music Library, I was pleased to see the CD appear on my doormat
as part of my allocation; had it not done so, I would have obtained
and reviewed the classicsonline.com download in my Download
Roundup, which gives away, of course, at the outset my recommendation
of performance, chosen instrument and recording. If you don’t
want my detailed reasons, let me recommend that you obtain this
recording in one form or another; the CD, of course, sounds
more opulent than the NML streamed version, but that’s good
enough to enjoy the performances and to assure me that the download
from classicsonline.com in best-quality mp3 will not be far
behind. You’ll miss out on the booklet, but that’s available
from the Signum web page – here
– where you can also hear samples and where I note that the
spelling Freiberg is ‘corrected’ to Freiburg. Actually both
Freiberg and Freiburg have cathedrals, but it’s the Saxon Freiberg
that houses the 1714 Silbermann organ. Freiburg is more famous
musically for its eponymous Baroque Orchestra.
The organ itself is as much the star of the recording as the
composer and organist. A Silbermann organ is many respects the
ideal instrument for Bach, whose music in many ways had outgrown
the North German instruments which are suitable for Buxtehude
and his predecessors, and this is a particularly fine specimen.
The Freiberg organ was employed by Marie-Claire Alain for many
of her Bach recordings: you can find a one-hour recital of her
playing it one YouTube – here.
Alain believed that Bach had definitely played this instrument
– see her interview for The Organ – here.
– and see below for a budget 2-CD set of her Bach recordings.
Oliver Condy is less assertive in the Signum notes, contenting
himself with the question ‘did [Bach] venture to Freiberg?’,
but he is right in his well-argued belief that this is a fine
instrument for Bach’s music, built and modified in his lifetime
– and it emerged unscathed from WWII. The booklet contains the
specification of the instrument, tuned a little above modern
pitch at a’=476.3Hz and in modified mean-tone temperament. Somewhat
neglected under the DDR, it’s now in fine fettle as heard on
My benchmark for recordings of Bach’s organ music is the wonderful
and inexpensive complete collection played by Kevin Bowyer on
Nimbus which was my Bargain of the Month in
mp3 format some time ago: NI1721 [8 mp3 CDs, 31 hours], available
direct from MusicWeb International for £23, post paid worldwide.
(See my joint review with Kirk McElhearn – here.)
In BWV564 Goode and Bowyer agree fairly closely about the tempo
of the central adagio, but Bowyer takes the opening toccata
markedly faster (5:32) than Goode (6:10), while the exact opposite
occurs in the concluding fugue (Bowyer 5:30, Goode 4:28). Heard
one immediately after the other, the differences are noticeable,
with Bowyer sounding lighter and more joyous than the slightly
weightier and more thoughtful Goode performance of the toccata.
Heard on its own, without any other performances in mind, however,
there is no sense that Goode is ponderous here or that he takes
the closing fugue too fast; I enjoyed his performance greatly
and it sets the tone for the whole programme in style.
Both Goode and Bowyer play with sufficient Affekt in
the central adagio without over-egging the emotional pudding.
Hans Fagius in Volume 4 of his complete collection on BIS (BIS-CD-343/4)
adopts tempi for the outer sections exactly mid-way between
those of Goode and Bowyer and plays the adagio noticeably
more slowly than either – just a tad too slowly for me, but
then I listened to him after hearing the other two, which can
over-emphasise small differences. If pressed to score these
three performances I’d have to place Bowyer at the top of the
list for performance, but Goode first for the quality of the
organ and the use which he makes of its potential.
Bowyer’s nimble finger-work in the toccata is matched by Goode’s
in the fugue. To complete my act of sitting on the fence, I
enjoyed Fagius too; his tempi for the outer sections represent
perhaps an ideal compromise. The Naxos Music Library, where
these three performances and many others are available for comparison
suggests an average timing for the complete work of 12:15, faster
than any of these three and surely too fast.
My slight preference for Bowyer is more marked in BWV541: in
both sections here Bowyer and Fagius (Volume 4 again) sound
lighter and more joyful, capturing the vivace marking
in the prelude, while Goode is a little weightier and more thoughtful
without ever sounding ponderous.
Not surprisingly Bach was intrigued by the music of his older
Italian contemporary Vivaldi to the extent that he recast his
concerto for four violins as a concerto for four keyboard instruments
and adapted some of Vivaldi’s concertos as organ works. BWV593
is an adaptation of RV522, Op.3/8. Here, unsurprisingly, it’s
Bowyer who adopts the faster tempi, more in line with modern
performances of Vivaldi’s original, but Goode is only seconds
slower, with Fagius (Volume 4 again) slower than either in the
first movement and splitting the difference in the other sections.
This time I listened to Fagius first so as not to be unfair
to him by leaving him last. Even so, I thought his performance
of the opening movement just a little too deliberate at 4:11
against Goode’s 4:04, with a really incisive opening statement,
and Bowyer’s 3:59. If Bowyer scores overall because of his choice
of tempo and lively finger-work, Goode is close on his heels
in both departments – his opening sounds wonderfully clean by
comparison with Bowyer’s uncharacteristically very slightly
slurred phrasing – and ahead on points because of the versatility
of the Silbermann organ.
Because of the nature of Bach’s adaptation it’s a little unfair
to compare all three with Europa Galante and Fabio Biondi in
the original concerto except to note that they show all the
organ versions a clean pair of heels and to say that I’m not
sure now why I didn’t make their version Bargain of the Month
when I reviewed it on a super-budget Virgin Classics 4-CD box
of Op.3 and Op.8 (6484082 – see review).
I compared BWV544 with Volume 1 of the Lionel Rogg recordings
which EMI have reissued on a pair of Gemini 2-CD sets and with
Werner Jacob on an EMI Triple (see below for details of both).
In the opening prelude there’s very little difference in tempi
between Goode and Rogg but Goode is noticeably slower in the
fugue and Jacob is considerably faster than either throughout.
I’m inclined to rate Jacob’s exciting performance the best;
in direct comparison both Goode and Rogg sound deliberate, though
once again I could be very happy with either as heard on its
You can make these and other comparisons yourself if you subscribe
to the Naxos Music Library, but if you do so, don’t follow the
button to purchase the Jacob download from classicsonline.com
at a ridiculous £20.97 when the CD set costs around a third
of that. (Currently around £7 from UK online suppliers.) Similarly,
the Rogg is about half the price on CD of the classicsonline.com
So far as such a thing is possible on a single CD, there’s a
representative cross-section of JSB’s organ music here, though
not including the Toccata and Fugue in d, BWV565, of which most
music lovers will probably have at least one version already,
and which may well not be an original Bach composition. With
performances, recording and quality of presentation about as
good as they get, despite my slight preferences for other versions
in some cases, and bearing in mind the most generous playing
time, this would make an excellent introduction to JSB’s organ
music and an excellent adjunct to any collection, even for those
who already have the complete works on the Nimbus recording.
Those considering making this Signum CD their first Bach organ
recording music might well consider supplementing it with a
super-budget 3-CD EMI Triple of Werner Jacob’s recordings (5093932:
Bargain of the Month – see review)
and/or with 2-CD budget sets from Lionel Rogg (EMI Gemini 2642892)
and Marie-Claire Alain (Warner Classics Maestro 2564 689755)
which I reviewed together here.
Better still, go for the complete set from Kevin Bowyer on Nimbus