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Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Prelude & Fugue in G, Bwv541 [7:15]
Chorale Prelude; “Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier”, BWV730 [2:13]
Concerto in D minor after Vivaldi, BWV596 [10:39]
Chorale Partita; “Sei gegrüßet, Jesu gütig”, BWV768 [19:00]
Concerto in C after Vivaldi, BWV594 [17:38]
Chorale Prelude; “Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier”, BWV731 [2:40]
Prelude & Fugue in C, BWV547 [10:10]
Masaaki Suzuki (organ)
rec. 2016, Kobe Shoin Women’s University Chapel, Japan
BIS BIS-2241 SACD [70:47]

For his second Bach organ recital, Masaaki Suzuki has not just returned to his native Japan – the first was recorded in the Netherlands – but to the place where, in his own words, “it all started for me”. It was in this chapel, completed in 1981 that he recorded his cycle of Bach cantatas with the Bach Collegium Japan, and where he has given over 230 concerts. The Marc Garnier organ, installed there in 1983, has a very French registration, and a temperament which makes no concessions to contemporary notions of being “in tune”, especially when it forces itself into C major. But it is an instrument of which Masaaki is obviously very fond, and if nothing else, this is a CD which presents some of the most enchanting and gorgeous organ stops imaginable – I defy anyone not to be entranced by the simply magical solo combination with its gently wafting Tremulant in the D minor Concerto or that hauntingly beautiful registration he finds for the second of the two “Liebster Jesu” Preludes.

Suzuki reveals his interpretative antecedents in a boisterous, almost outrageously flamboyant account of the G major Prelude & Fugue, and in some impertinent little twists, turns and ornamental excesses scattered liberally around the programme – much in the manner of Ton Koopman. But he is very much his own man in his often heart-stopping rhythmic freedom and his tendency to skip over certain figurations which, in the hands of other players, are given more weight and substance.

The programme is neatly planned as a palindrome with the big set of Chorale Variations on “Sei gegrüßet” as the central pillar and a couple of Vivaldi Concerto transcriptions, chorale preludes and major-key Preludes & Fugues providing the frame. I find the Vivaldi arrangements a little too wayward in Suzuki’s hands to be totally convincing, but I relish the great verve and spirit he brings to the Preludes & Fugues and I adore the tranquillity which exudes from the chorale preludes.

The recording in the strangely hollow acoustic of the Shoin Chapel is full bodied and gives a certain robustness to the organ’s sour temperament. These are not performances which put Bach’s music on a pedestal nor would one hold them up as pinnacles of interpretative significance, but the life, vitality, affection and fun Suzuki brings to them will ensure they have a lasting place in the annals of Bach organ recordings.

Marc Rochester

Previous review: Des Hutchinson



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