Johann Sebastian Bach: Organ Music

Media Review / Listening Diary 2012-10-02


2012-10-02 — Original posting (on Blogger)
2013-08-02 — New standard layout applied
2014-11-05 — Re-posting as is (WordPress)
2016-07-07 — Brushed up for better readability


Outline


Introduction

Besides listening to Scarlatti sonatas (see my listening diary 2012-09-29), I went through the effort of making an inventory of CDs that I haven’t imported into iTunes yet (see “How I use iTunes” and “My Digital Music Collection”) — the result: I’m about 95% done (21,543 “songs” / almost 74 days of music in my computer right now).

Of course I don’t just “suck stuff in” — but the idea is that I also listen to the music that I’m importing, and as I was busy with Scarlatti and preparing to resume my Beethoven string quartet reviews, I imported “at the casual end” — casual not in the sense of casual music, but CDs that I acquired “almost accidentally”: in this case, from CD sales after organ concerts in Uster and at the Großmünster in Zurich some 10 – 15 years ago (more on these organ concerts in a future post).

The CDs

Wieland Meinhold — Weimar Organ Music

Weimarer Orgelmusik — Meinhold; CD cover

Weimar Organ Music — J.S.Bach: BWV 562, 564, 589, 740; Johann Gottlieb Töpfer (1791 – 1870): 3 Fugues, Sonata in D minor, chorale variations.

Wieland Meinhold at the Böhm Organ of the Stadtkirche zu Bad Berka

Motette 11851 (CD, stereo); ℗ 1994

Weimarer Orgelmusik — Meinhold; CD, EAN-13 barcode
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Wieland Meinhold — Weißenfels Organ Concert

Weißenfelser Orgelkonzert — Meinhold; CD cover

Weißenfels Organ Concert — Organ works by J.S.Bach (BWV 208, 538), G.F.Händel, J.P.Krieger (1649 – 1725), E.J.Henschel (1804 – 1875), Karl Hoyer (1891 – 1936), and W.Meinhold (*1961).

Wieland Meinhold at the Förner-Voigt Organ in the Schlosskirche zu Weißenfels

Motette 11951 (CD, stereo); ℗ 1995

Weißenfelser Orgelkonzert — Meinhold; CD, EAN-13 barcode
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Hansjürgen Scholze — Silbermann Organ, Dresden Cathedral

Die Silbermann-Orgeln der Kathedrale zu Dresden — Scholze; CD cover

Organ works by J.S.Bach (BWV 538, 663, 711, 717), C.P.E.Bach (Wq 70,3), Jan Krtitel Kuchar (1751 – 1829), J.N.Hummel.

Hansjürgen Scholze at the Silbermann Organ in the Dresden Cathedral

Motette 11731 (CD, stereo); ℗ 1992

Die Silbermann-Orgeln der Kathedrale zu Dresden — Scholze; CD, EAN-13 barcode
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Rudolf Scheidegger — Organ Music from Mozart’s Time

Orgelmusik der Mozart-Zeit — Scheidegger; CD cover

Organ Music from Mozart’s Time — Organ works by J.S.Bach (from BWV 1080), C.P.E.Bach (Wq 70,3), W.F.Bach, G.F.Händel, and W.A.Mozart (K.399, 608, 617).

Rudolf Scheidegger at the Metzler Organ, Großmünster Zürich

Edition Lade EL CD 017 (CD, stereo); ℗ / © 1996

Orgelmusik der Mozart-Zeit — Scheidegger; CD, EAN-13 barcode
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Related / Reference CDs

Where available, I was comparing these organ works with interpretations already in my iTunes collection (not all of these have “reference status” for me!), namely:

Ton Koopman — J.S.Bach: Organ Works V

Bach: Organ Works, vol.V — Koopman, CD cover

J.S.Bach: Organ Works V — BWV 525, 532, 564, 553-560, 686.

Ton Koopman, Garrels-Organ at the Grote Kerk, Maassluis, NL

Novalis 150 066-2 (CD, stereo); ℗ / © 1990

Bach: Organ Works, vol.V — Koopman, CD, EAN-13 barcode
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Ton Koopman — J.S.Bach: Toccata & Fuge

Bach: Toccata & Fugue — Koopman, CD cover

J.S.Bach: Toccata & Fuge — BWV 538, 565, 569, 572, 582, 588, 589, 590.

Ton Koopman, Garrels-Organ at the Grote Kerk, Maassluis, NL

Archiv Produktion 447 292-2 (CD, stereo); ℗ 1984

Bach: Toccata & Fugue — Koopman, CD, UPC-A barcode
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Ton Koopman — J.S.Bach: Organ Works, vol.1

Bach: Organ Works, vol.1 — Koopman, CD cover

J.S.Bach: Organ Works, vol.1 — BWV 531, 542, 543, 544, 562, 570, 572, 578, 582, 588.

Ton Koopman, Garrels-Organ at the Grote Kerk, Maassluis, NL

Teldec Das Alte Werk 4509-94458-2 (CD, stereo); ℗ / © 1995

Bach: Organ Works, vol.1 — Koopman, CD, UPC-A barcode
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Ton Koopman — J.S.Bach: Organ Works, vol.2

Bach: Organ Works, vol.2 — Koopman, CD cover

J.S.Bach: Organ Works, vol.2 — Organ Chorales BWV 645-668.

Ton Koopman, Müller Organ, Grote Kerk, Leeuwarden, NL

Teldec Das Alte Werk 4509-94459-2 (2 CD, stereo); ℗ / © 1995

Bach: Organ Works, vol.2 — Koopman, CD, UPC-A barcode
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Ton Koopman — J.S.Bach: Organ Works, vol.4

Bach: Organ Works, vol.4 — Koopman, CD cover

J.S.Bach: Organ Works, vol.4 — BWV 532, 538, 540, 564, 565, 566.

Ton Koopman, Arp Schnitger-Organ, St.Jacobi Church, Hamburg

Teldec Das Alte Werk 4509-98443-2 (CD, stereo); ℗ / © 1996

Bach: Organ Works, vol.4 — Koopman, CD, UPC-A barcode
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Ton Koopman — J.S.Bach: Organ Works, vol.6

Bach: Organ Works, vol.6 — Koopman, CD cover

J.S.Bach: Organ Works, vol.6 — BWV 532, 538, 540, 564, 565, 566.

Ton Koopman, Arp Schnitger-Organ, St.Jacobi Church, Hamburg

Teldec Das Alte Werk 4509-98443-2 (CD, stereo); ℗ / © 1997

Bach: Organ Works, vol.6 — Koopman, CD, UPC-A barcode
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Ton Koopman — J.S.Bach: Organ Works, vol.10

Bach: Organ Works, vol.10 — Koopman, CD cover

J.S.Bach: Organ Works, vol.10 — BWV 533, 535, 537, 546, 549, 550, 568, 569, 575, 589.

Ton Koopman, Müller Organ, Grote Kerk, Leeuwarden, NL

Teldec Das Alte Werk 0630-13155-2 (2 CD, stereo); ℗ / © 1999

Bach: Organ Works, vol.10 — Koopman, CD, UPC-A barcode
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Rudolf Scheidegger — Bach on the Organ in the Großmünster, Zurich

Bach: Organ Works — Scheidegger, Großmünster, Zurich, CD cover

J.S.Bach: BWV 525, 538, 546, 590, 645-650, 733

Rudolf Scheidegger at the Metzler-Organ in the Großmünster Zurich

Jecklin szene sCHweiz JS 280-2 (CD, stereo); ℗ / © 1991
(not generally available)

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Artists on the Above CDs

Wieland Meinhold

If I remember correctly, I heard Wieland Meinhold at an organ festival in the protestant church in Uster: the instrument in that church is an electro-pneumatic instrument (Goll, Lucerne, 1963) — a fair, multi-purpose instrument, but certainly not “HIP” for baroque organ works. Still, by the fact that after the concert I bought two CDs I must have been reasonably satisfied with the concert given by this artist.  Now, upon listening to the above two CDs, I wasn’t really impressed. The instruments he is playing may be OK, though:

  • The instrument in Weißenfels is a reconstruction of an instrument from the late 17th century, it is located very high up in the church and is probably hard to record well: on that CD, the sound is not very differentiated, somewhat dense, yet not very “close” — but this may also be the interpretation, see below.
  • The instrument in Bad Berka is mostly newly built, in baroque style, with some stops still from the mid 18th century — Bach had once written down the stop list for this instrument, though it is not clear whether and to what degree this was realized back then. I prefer this instrument (or rather: this recording) over the one from Weißenfels.

But I’m not really happy with these recordings, overall: Meinhold’s registration is too massive, too “romantic” (IMHO — I’m not an organist!).

Hansjürgen Scholze

Hansjürgen Scholze’s recording is in a different league: he is playing a wonderful, restored Silbermann organ in the Cathedral in Dresden, built around 1750. It is one of originally three Silbermann organs in Dresden (Mozart played them upon visiting and found them to be wonderful instruments) — the pipes were saved before the city was bombed, the organ housing has been reconstructed from photographs, the restoration was complete in 1971. Not only is this a marvelous instrument — Hansjürgen Scholze is also an excellent organist, so this CD is a real pleasure to listen to!

I must say, I was also very much impressed when I heard Scholze play on the organ in Uster: in baroque works, he avoids “romantic” registering, often playing very few stops only — and it is amazing how much character, color etc. one can produce even on a newer instrument with a mostly romantic disposition!

Rudolf Scheidegger

The fourth of the CDs discussed here is by Rudolf Scheidegger at the Metzler-Organ at the Großmünster in Zurich; while the organ is a good instrument and played an important role in the creation of the “Organ movement” that let to the new popularity of mechanical organs — especially here in Switzerland we have quite a number of organ builders, the majority of which now mostly or exclusively build mechanical organs.

That said, that instrument in Zurich is fairly big, and built such that it can be used for a wide variety of styles — but it will never stand a comparison with a real, big, baroque organ (such as those played by Ton Koopman). The title of the CD discussed here (Organ music from Mozart’s time) is sort of a joke, as it features one composition by Mozart, plus works by J.S. Bach, G.F. Handel, C.P.E. Bach, and W.F. Bach. Plus, Rudolf Scheidegger is not my favorite organist…

Notes, by Composition

As for the works on these CDs: I’ll concentrate on those which are on more than one of the new CDs, and/or for which I have existing CDs for comparison. This includes only just works by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685 – 1750); the “reference” CDs in my collection (well, except for the last one, also by Rudolf Scheidegger at the Großmünster-organ in Zurich, that I would not call a reference recording) are listed above (I have all of Ton Koopman’s Bach CDs, at least from his most recent Teldec series). I’ll keep this comparison short:

BWV 538 (Toccata & Fugue in D minor, “doric”)

  • Wieland Meinhold (Weißenfels): ** / *
  • Rudolf Scheidegger: ** / ***
  • Ton Koopman (Archiv Produktion, Maassluis NL): **** / ****
  • Ton Koopman (vol. 6 in the Teldec series, Waalse Kerk, Amsterdam NL) — organists may blame Koopman for often using the plain jeu — but with such a nice a and such a great piece, who could possibly resist??? ***** / *****
  • Hansjürgen Scholze — very nice, the registration is not overloaded, yet perfectly adequate for this great composition! ***** / *****

BWV 562 (Fantasia in C minor)

  • Wieland Meinhold (Bad Berka): ***
  • Ton Koopman (vol. 1 in the Teldec series, Maasluis NL) – much more subtle, lighter than Meinhold: *****

BWV 564 (Toccata, Adagio & Fugue in C major)

My favorite organ piece by Bach!

  • Wieland Meinhold (Bad Berka) — in terms of articulation & differentiation this is way behind Koopman (and the instrument can’s stand a comparison with Koopman’s): **
  • Ton Koopman (vol. 5, Novalis series, Maasluis NL), see also below: **** / *** / *****
  • Ton Koopman (vol. 4 in the Teldec series, St.Jacobi, Hamburg) — every time I listen to this I get carried away completely; the sheer beauty of the sound of this instrument almost touches me to tears. Compared to the older recording, Koopman’s playing is more controlled, more carefully articulated, even in the fastest passages of the pedal solo in the Toccata; and I don’t mind the plain jeu in the Fugue! ***** / **** / *****

BWV 589 (Allabreve in D major)

  • Wieland Meinhold (Bad Berka) — see above; registration pretty massive: **
  • Ton Koopman (Archiv Produktion, Maassluis NL): ***
  • Ton Koopman (vol. 6 in the Teldec series, Waalse Kerk, Amsterdam NL) — I prefer the registration with this recording over the earlier one, a very nice organ! ****

BWV 663 (Chorale prelude “Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr“)

  • Ton Koopman (vol. 2 in the Teldec series, Leeuwarden NL) plays this well, using very nice stops on a big, baroque organ: ****
  • Hansjürgen Scholze plays this slower, using a small, more discreet, more intimate set of stops — solemn, calm… *****

BWV 711 (Chorale prelude “Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr“)

  • Ton Koopman (vol. 10 in the Teldec series, Leeuwarden NL) very interesting registration, using very few stops: ****
  • Hansjürgen Scholze “opposite” registration compared to Koopman, using flue rather than reed stops: *****

BWV 717 (Chorale prelude “Allein Gott in der Höh sei Ehr“)

  • Ton Koopman (vol. 10 in the Teldec series, Leeuwarden NL): *****
  • Hansjürgen Scholze here, I prefer Koopman’s registration: ****

BWV 740 (Chorale prelude “Wir glauben all an einen Gott,Vater“)

  • Wieland Meinhold (Bad Berka) — not the best sound management in this piece: ***
  • Ton Koopman (vol. 10 in the Teldec series, Leeuwarden NL): ****

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