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The Encounter at Lübeck
Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707)
Praeludium in C, BuxWV137 [5:14]
Praeludium in G minor, BuxWV149 [8:00]
Chorale Prelude; Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland, BuxWV211 [2:04]
Passacaglia in D minor, BuxWV161 [5:32]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Toccata, Adagio & Fugue in C, BWV564 [15:03]
Prelude & Fugue in G minor, BWV535 [7:41]
Chorale Prelude; Nun komm’ der Heiden Heiland, BWV659 [4:24]
Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV582 [14:57]
Vincent Boucher (organ)
rec. 2017/19, L’Oratoire Saint-Joseph du Mont-Royal, Montreal, Canada

Bach and Buxtehude; a pretty obvious pairing and one which, surprisingly, seems to have become far less common in the CD age than it was in the heady days of LP. It is to his eternal credit that Canadian organist Vincent Boucher (who is equally keen to promote himself as a professional in the finance industry) has revived this once-popular pairing and done so with tremendous élan in this sumptuous disc.

There is probably no music-lover on earth who does not know the famous story of how Bach walked the 400 kms from Arnstadt to Lübeck to hear Buxtehude play, over-stayed his leave-of-absence in the process, put his job in jeopardy, but picked up some tips from the older organist which set him on a path to true greatness as both a player and a composer for the instrument. (There is also a story about Bach and Buxtehude’s daughter which is probably too conjectural to warrant repetition here.) So much is well known, but when it comes to setting down Buxtehude’s examples besides the Bach works they so clearly influenced, such comparisons are usually left to the student to uncover. Here, Boucher pairs them off so that the listener cannot fail to recognise the old master’s hand on Bach’s compositional shoulder.

This, though, is no academic study, carefully and drily showing how Buxtehude influenced Bach. Instead, through some truly glittering and vivid performances, Boucher brings everything wonderfully to life in highly attractive and entertaining performances which, in every respect, also bear the closest scrutiny. The echo effects of Buxtehude’s C major Praeludium have a gloriously effervescent character, while the Toccata of Bach’s C major work positively glitters as if it were shards of coloured glass glinting in the sunshine

Boucher’s playing is scintillating. He communicates a wonderful vitality in every note he plays, and clearly relishes this sumptuous instrument on which, when he is not devising new investment opportunities for his clients, he serves as titular organist. Built in 1960 by Rudolf von Beckerath and restored in 2012 by Juget-Sinclair, it has mechanical action, boasts five manuals and 78 stops, and speaks into a building with a stupendous acoustic. It sounds a fabulous instrument, and not only does Boucher travel show it off with something approaching proselytizing zeal, revealing a world of wonders along the way (just listen to the plethora of sounds he conjures up in the Buxtehude G minor), but the recording (it appears that the G minor works were recorded apart from the others, but the recording data is rather vague on that point) captures it with admirable realism. In short, an absolute cracker of an organ disc.

Marc Rochester

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