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Paths That Lead Away From Bach
John Scott Whiteley (organ)
rec. 2015, Selby Abbey
Audio PCM Stereo

Selby Abbey has been the focus of a discriminating sequence of audio-visual releases over the last few years. It’s intrinsically valuable to have representation of its remarkable architecture of course but - more than that - income received goes to support the abbey’s roof and organ restoration appeals, most worthy causes.

As in a number of other cases therefore, John Scott Whiteley doesn’t play the famous Hill organ, which requires extensive restoration but the Viscount that sits in the building, a splendid full-colour photograph of which (with full specifications) can be admired in the attractive booklet that comes with the DVD. In addition, there is a table of temperaments and pitches used in the recording, clearly cross-referenced against each piece played; an unusual but valuable ancillary piece of documentation.

He has chosen an imaginative programme predicated along the line of the ‘sons and pupils’ of Bach, which he makes clear in his erudite booklet note. It therefore makes sense to begin JS, and a witty performance of the Fugue in G, the ‘Jig’ inaugurates the disc, followed by Vater unser im Himmelreich, BWV762. This last is accompanied by a shot of one of the abbey’s stained-glass windows and the choir stalls. The deft voicings of WF Bach’s Wir Christenleut (it’s commonly attributed to him, at least) are a notable feature of this reading, and the synchronicity between music performed and the visual stimulus generated by shots of interior and exterior are especially exemplified as the exterior film of the abbey, nobly grand, prefigures the similarly grand Prelude and Fugue in F minor, BWV534 – either by WF or JS.

Beware the glitch in the track listing which inverts the two pieces by Georg Friedrich Kauffmann but the performances prove revealing and profoundly musical, as is the lightly textured Trio by Johan Ludwig Krebs. Once again canny programming ensures that these pieces are strongly contrasted, in this case by the power and grandiloquence of Johann Schneider’s powerful Prelude and Fugue in D major. The thunderous bass extensions of this will need rapid use of the volume control to ensure cordial relations with neighbours are maintained. Characteristically this superb example of the organist’s skill is followed by the reverential piety of Johann Peter Kellner’s setting of Herzlich tut mich verlangen, by the most attractive Kittel variations and finally by the concentrated intensity of Johann Gottfried Müthel’s Fantasia in G minor.

It ends another dedicated and thoughtfully conceived recital from Selby Abbey which shares with its siblings attractive layouts, ease of access, superior performances and excellently judged sound and vision – uncluttered, straightforward and with no unnecessary extras.

Jonathan Woolf

Johann Sebastian BACH: Fugue in G (The Jig), BWV577
Johann Sebastian BACH: Vater unser im Himmelreich, BWV762
CPE BACH: Fugue in B minor, Wq233(a) arr. KHL Pölitz
(attrib) WF BACH: Trio ‘Wir Christenleut
WF or JS BACH: Prelude and Fugue in F minor, BWV534
GF KAUFFMANN: Nun freut euch lieben Christen
GF KAUFFMANN: Nun Danket all Gott
JL KREBS: Trio in E flat, Krebs WV443
J SCHNEIDER: Prelude and Fugue in D major
JP KELLNER: Herzlich tut mich verlangen P01:01
JC KITTEL: Variations on ‘Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn’
JG MÜTHEL: Fantasie in G minor


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