The cosmopolitan composer Georg Muffat was certainly well travelled. He studied in Paris but worked in Strasbourg, Vienna, Prague, Salzburg and Munich. He is considered German but was definitely one of the first composers to transfer ideas between European countries, particularly introducing French and Italian compositional forms to German-speaking countries. He was very successful during his lifetime. The reception of the Apparatus musico-organisticus was very positive when it was first published in 1690; the final edition from 1721 includes all the works on these discs.
The multi-sectional Toccatas are fabulous pieces. Virtuosic free sections are combined with contrapuntal canzones with the ornaments and fast passages putting the player to the test. The first eight Toccatas (CD 1) are each based on one of the eight church modes. The following pieces seem overall more daring in both composition and interpretation. The ninth toccata starts with dramatic, ornamented chordal harmony over sustained pedal notes before breaking into a lively contrapuntal section showing off both the skill of Falcioni and the interesting organ that he is playing. This was built in 1998 by Cortinovis e Corna from Albino and has a surprisingly small number of stops; only one stop of each register on either manual. The registration selected by Falcioni displays all the different moods the organ can muster, although inevitably the pieces will use a lot of the same sounds. The tuning of the organ - I can’t find information about which temperament is used - is a great help in adding to the variety of each piece. I would listen to these CDs solely for the heart-wrenching dissonances created by the over-lapping harmonies combined with the unequal temperament.
This set won’t be everyone’s cup of tea due to the very specific repertoire, organ and interpretation. However, if ancient, sometimes angular music is what gets you out of bed in the morning then have a listen to The Silbermann Organs of Ebersmunster performed by Ann Elise Smoot on JAV. I am enthusiastic about this recording; Smoot plays Muffat on rather different instruments with fresh interpretations.
This repertoire may be an acquired taste but this Brilliant Classics release is a very interesting set through which to explore it.
Complete Apparatus Musico-Organisticus
CD 1 [53:29]
Toccata Prima [5:02]
Toccata Secunda [5:26]
Toccata Tertia [5:25]
Toccata Quarta [6:43]
Toccata Quinta [5:17]
Toccata Sexta [9:26]
Toccata Septima [8:59]
Toccata Octava [6:43]
CD 2 [56:52]
Toccata Nona [6:14]
Toccata Decima [5:47]
Toccata Undecima [6:49]
Toccata Duodecima et ultima [7:05]
Nova Cyclpeias Harmonica [11:34]