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Organ Works BWV 525-771
Recorded Sets of Bach's Complete Organ Works
General Discussions - Part 1 (2001-2003)

Best Organ Artists

Donald Satz wrote (August 2, 2001):
Since we're covering the best Bach harpsichord artists, how about the organ performers? I really love the recordings from Leonhardt, Walcha, and Richter. Lionel Rogg is quite good, and a couple of younger ones to watch are Andrea Marcon and Martin Lücker who have been recording for Hänssler.

Thomas Boyce wrote (August 2, 2001):
[To Donald Satz] Kevin Bowyer.

Jim Morrison wrote (August 3, 2001):
[To Thomas Boyce] Bowyer. I'm impressed. Lively music making, nice flow. I'm not a big organ fan (nothing against the music, just don't listen to it much) but I'm more likely to put on the Bowyer or the Leonhardt before the others. Once again, I'm not a fit judge of the quality of their music making or their position in the organ players canon, just know what I like.

Loreggian also gets a very big thumbs up for his CD of Bach's transcriptions for organ of Vivaldi's music: TCT# 672215.

More info at: http://www.allegro-music.com/online_catalog.asp?sku_tag=TCT3672215

PS: anyone ever see that somewhat mystical German movie Schlafes Bruder (Brother of Sleep) about an organ player that comes from a tiny mountain village; it takes place around 1800 or so. A little odd, but I'd recommend it.

Donald Satz wrote (August 3, 2001):
[To Jim Morrison] I have all the Bowyer/Bach volumes and Bowyer's 2-cd set of the organ music of J. Alain. He is a fine performer, and I always think of him and Christopher Herrick as a pair; that's only because I started collecting on the same day their Bach cycles. Overall, I tend to prefer Herrick - when he's on top form, he can't be beat. I suppose that Herrick takes the 'light' approach, but he often delivers a great flow to the music and he's excellent for Bach works which can take flight. He's similar to Lionel Rogg in that respect. I hear Bowyer as much more serious than Herrick, and that's a big advantage for much of Bach's organ music.

Just like with Bach's other musical categories, I need a ton of organ recordings from different artists to get the best of everything. Rogg and Herrick for floating or zipping through the air, Leonhardt for his inevitability and rock-solid architecture, Marcon and Suzuki for tough as nails readings, etc, etc. I find Jacob very hard to get a good handle on. Sometimes, he's fantastic - at others he can put me to sleep. I never listen to him when I'm lying down.

Since I got back into classical music about 15 years ago, I regularly tried to immerse myself in Bach's organ music and that of a few other composers. It never took; then all of a sudden a few months ago, it took completely. I'm very happy about this. Hated missing out on the king of instruments. Now my wife has to somehow live with it. When I have Bach organ in the car cd player, I can tell she's trying to think of a way to get of the car. I just speed up; it's good having her next to me.

Philip Peters wrote (August 3, 2001):
Donald Satz wrote:
< Since we're covering the best Bach harpsichord artists, how about the organ performers? I really love the recordings from Leonhardt, Walcha, and Richter. Lionel Rogg is quite good, and a couple of younger ones to watch are Andrea Marcon and Martin Lücker who have been recording for Hänssler. >
Walcha is my starting point and I still like his Bach although it is certainly dated in a way comparable to Richter´s. Whatever Leonhardt recorded (and there will be more as he is now focusing almost exclusively on the organ) is almost sacrosanct to me but I don´t expect pthers to feel the same. Leonhardt´s austerity never fails to cinvince me in whatever medium he chooses and for me he is almost the personification of Bach himself (I think other Dutchmen might feel like I do). Still, the older Alain recordings have a charm all their own. Rogg´s AoF is certainly a fine performance but I never heard his other recordings.

Recently I bought Fagius (on the Brillant Classic label) which I feel is better than expected but my favourite at this point is Wolfgang Stockmeier whose 20 CD´s can be bought for next to nothing from Zweitausendeins in Germany. It is quite an omission that I never heard the highly acclaimed Chapuis recordings but first I will go on vacation and if there will be any money left (why do these things cost so much money? ;)) they may enter my collection. Any input here on Chapuis?

Riccardo Nughes wrote (August 3, 2001):
My choices are : T. Koopman, Alessio Corti and Gustav Leonhardt.

There also some young organists that I heard live and on CD that are very interesting : Francis Jacob (look out for his double cd on Zig-Zag Territoires), Claudio Astronio (great clavierUbung III interpolated with sung chorales on Stradivarius records) and Kay Johannsen (Hänssler edition).

Donald Satz wrote (August 3, 2001):
[to Philip Peters] I'm not familiar with Chapuis in Bach, but it's quite a coincidence that I bought today a used 2-cd set of Grigny's organ music performed by Mr. Chapuis. Haven't heard enough of it to have any opinion of either one.

Charles Francis wrote (August 3, 2001):
Philip Peters wrote:
< ... Whatever Leonhardt recorded (and there will be more as he is now focusing almost exclusively on the organ) is almost sacrosanct to me but I don´t expect pthers to feel the same. Leonhardt´s austerity never fails to cinvince me in whatever medium he chooses and for me he is almost the personification of Bach himself (I think other Dutchmen might feel like I do). >
He's performing at the forthcoming Edinburgh festival: http://www.thescotsman.co.uk/text_only.cfm?id=93450

Thomas Boyce wrote (August 3, 2001):
[To Donald Satz] I heard Herrick play at Lincoln Center in 1998. He played all of Bach's organ music in a series of concerts that summer. Alice Tully Hall was about 50 degrees from the air-conditioning, and the decibel-level of the organ was a little too high; sometimes much too high. (And I grew up in the '60s on rock and roll...) Anyway, it was a great conce.

Good things about Bowyer: quality of recording. Very bright. Also, the sound of the organ. On one of the Vivaldi transcriptions the organ sounds like a person making puffing noises.

I like Richter et al. but the older recordings aren't as clear as the new ones, which really hurts the music. Not as much for piano, really, and I don't know why. I'm happy with Kempff's Beethoven sonatas. Okay, enough blather.

Pablo Fagoaga wrote (August 4, 2001):
[To Donald Satz] I had his 14 CDs set on Valois label. I bought it in a time in which I certainly had NO choice in Argentina's local market, and even less knowledge about Bach music, and baroque style. I don't say that I am aware of this issues now, but I can call myself a "not-so-ignorant".

Chapuis is a black stone in my collection, being the one and only multi-CD set I got rid off with no regret. I'ts ok, but when I heard Walcha, Rogg, and Hurford, it fell to the bare ground.

Pablo Fagoaga wrote (August 4, 2001):
[To Philip Peters] I don't like Chapuis particularly.

Even though I am not precisely a purist, I find his readings zero percent baroque. The lines are too much unclear, sounding like a "ball". At least to my ear, he sounds out of date. Curiously, in my opinion this happens to be a major problem, given the fact that Helmut Wlcha had a much more adecuate language earlier in time. To me: Thumbs up for Walcha, down for Chapuis. In his defense I can mention that he is quite expressive. May be Chapuis' highlight are his chorales.

My favourites are Rogg (may I say, HIP??) and the agile Peter Hurford (Although with no eccentricities, VERY personal).

The only thing I grieve about Rogg's cycle, is that it is not complete.

Hurford: modern organs, fast tempi and colorful registrations.

 

Complete(?) organ works

Thomas Boyce wrote (October 29, 2001):
I have two complete sets of organ music by Bach. Neither set includes the following works:

BWV 1085, Chorale prelude
BWV 1093, 1095, 1097, 1098, 1100, 1107, 1110, 1114, Organ chorales, Neumeister collection.

Wondering why.

Thank you,

Michael Grover wrote (October 29, 2001):
[To Thomas Boyce] The Hans Fagius set on Brilliant Classics includes all of those works except the 1085. Not sure about that one -- perhaps it is considered spurious?

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 30, 2001):
[To Thomas Boyce] The Neumeister collection is very late to the Bach canon: first published 1985. (Barenreiter 5181, Yale University Press, ed Christoph Wolff for the NBA) So, anybody recording the whole Bach organ cycle earlier than that naturally wouldn't have done them.

I've played a bunch of those and they don't feel like Bach compositionally, even though Wolff says the attribution is unquestionable.

Pablo Fagoaga wrote (October 30, 2001):
[To Bradley Lehman] Yes, that is the reason why they are missing. Surely the major drawback of the otherwise fantastic set from Lionel Rogg (1970).

Just a doubt about BWV 1085. I think it is not from the Neumeister collection, but from the Kirnberger collection (nowadays "Breitkopf collection" ??). Anyway, I reckon, it is from the "NBA era", so your observation applies.

I have renditions from Koopman and Hurford.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (October 30, 2001):
[To Michael Grover] I wish these so-called spurious works would be included and labeled as spurious and why with any proof (particualrly any scientific proof) after all these works are part of the musicological history of the composers works.

Koopman has many of these also and he plays on some of the same instruments that Bach did including Silberman's largest instrument and especially Schitger.

I must confess a prejustice for Schitger's Organs and prejustice against Silberman. Schitger's Principal Choruses have a definition to them that SIlberman's do not have. Silbermans Principals (at least the surviving ones) sound more like something from a Carnival Organ than a great alledged Master which the late Albert Schweitzer adored.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (October 30, 2001):
[To Pablo Fagoaga] I have yet to hear recorded everything in the Peter's complete printed edition of Bach's Complete Organ Works which is an on going edition. WHen I first bought these to learn for recital performance there were 9 volumes but now there are\ approximately 11 volumes. The Peters pairs Preludes and Fugues, Toccata and fuges, and other works that are said to belong to each other and also includes Bach's own registrations where Bach so indicated but which the Breitkofp edition did not pair or include generally.

 

Christopher Herick & JSB Complete Organ Music

Piotr Jaworski wrote (September 30, 2002):
Rumours finally confirmed: and it's official:
Hyperion has just released "The Complete Organ Music" of JSB performed by Christopher Herrick (CDS 44121/36) on 16 CDs: http://www.hyperion-records.co.uk/

Looks that I already have a perfect Xmass gift for myself! ;-)
And lots of small wonderfull gifts for my friends (individual CDs I was able to collect)!!!

John Curtis Carr wrote (September 30, 2002):
[To Pioter Jaworski] Piotr, Amigo, que es la cuesta? Do they take Argentinian pesos? Prob. not. Released? Cost?
Many thanks.

Piotr Jaworski wrote (October 1, 2002):
[To John Curtis Carr] Juanito!
"La cuesta?" Close to bargain - I believe - wherever you buy it. And -
of course - I'm sure that they don't accept pesos - especially Argentinian....

It looks that it had been released already - Hyperion is quite reliable as dates of releases are concerned - but might not be available in stores yet. Probably it will be in couple of days time.

The UK Internet store www.mdt.co.uk has this box-set in the section called "October Ne Releases" and it costs 65.11 GBP. What makes an unbelievable bargain!

Time to save some hard currency, John ... ;-)

Pablo Fagoaga wrote (October 6, 2002):
Yeah, yeah, yeah...
Laugh at Argentinian pesos...
But while you're laughing, get this:
Argentina's crisis boosted an extrange phenomenon: as far as I know, today Argentina is music's paradise.
Normally, currency devaluation comes along with inflation, this meaning that imported items (like almost 100% of the classical music CDs on the market) raise their prices to keep up with dollar cotization (pretty logical).
But (in other fields regretably) this time devaluation happened in the middle of a brutal economic depression, so almost no one gets salary raises.

To avoid banckrupcy most of the music stores are keeping their prices still, because most of the people earn the same ammount of pesos than before January's devaluation.

So if you are a bit luky and have some savings, or if you are a tourist in Buenos Aires, don't miss the Bargain of all bargains.

The average price for EVERY title you can imagine is..... U$S 6

Of course, I'm restraining my tale to the "happy part" of it, but I guess you guys would love it. Imagine... Mozart Piano concertos, all of them, on Archiv, EMI, you name it...say...U$S18...good deal?.
Archive's Helmut Walcha edition...U$S40...
IF you hang around, visit us.

Regards,
Pablo (from Buenos Aires)

 

Complete organ recordings: Rübsam

Thomas Radleff wrote (February 11, 2003):
Jim Morrison wrote:
< I'm still looking for the organ player for me. >
If you find it somewhere, take alook at Wolfgang Rübsam´s complete recording from 1977, rereleased by Philips in at least two different CD editions (one big and one slim box with paper wallets). 16 CDs, including DKdF and several doubtful / attributed pieces.

On two organs: by Marcussen in Freiburg, Southern Germany, and the Metzler organ in Frauenfeld, Switzerland. Good booklet. I like the set very much; his Trio Sonatas, and the Schübler Choräle attracted me at once, and any time I´m returning to any of the pieces, I find some detail that I haven´t percieved yet.

As you might have seen, regarding the extent of this edition, the early Rübsam is still far from the ponderous slowness that make some of his later Naxos recordings unbearable.

Of course it´s up to you if a recommendation from

serves for your taste...

Thomas Boyce wrote (February 11, 2003):
I'd like the first Rübsam set. Now how about Rogg?

Thierry van Bastelaar wrote (February 11, 2003):
[To Thomas Radleff] I warmly second that assessment. No complete recording will ever replace a judiciously built compilation, but if you need one, this is probably it (the budget price doesn't hurt either). And as Thomas indicates, stay away from Rübsam's Naxos recording.

Thierry van Bastelaar wrote (February 11, 2003):
[To Thomas Boyce] Rogg (Harmonia Mundi) benefits immensely from an authentic Silbermann organ (Arlesheim, Switzerland). In many respects, his recordings remind me of Rübsam's, and would be for me a close second best among the complete series of the 1970's.

Thomas Radleff wrote (February 11, 2003):
Thierry´s warning:
< ... stay away from Rübsam's Naxos recording. --- >
..."some of it" means some of those I´ve heard...

One exception: two discs with the Trio Sonates, recorded 1989 on the historical Schnitger organ at Groningen.
(Funny coincidence: Kei Koito´s Trio Sonatas recording - same works, same year, same organ.)

Donald Satz wrote (February 11, 2003):
[To Thomas Boyce] I feel Rogg's set is one of the best - greaty rhythms, momentum, and historical organs.

Donald Satz wrote (February 11, 2003):
[To Thierry van Bastelaer] I don't think there's any reason to stay away from Rübsam's Bach recordings on Naxos. He is slow and severe, but the approach has its benefits.

Jim Morrison wrote (February 11, 2003):
[To Thomas Radleff] Thanks Thomas. I appreciate you and everyone else's help. By the way, one fantastic organ disc I have is the Bach/Vivaldi organ concerti as played by Roberto Loreggian.

off-topic: is W. G. Sebald as big in the German speaking world as he is in the USA/UK? I've been reading his works lately. Pretty good, if incredibly somber. He reminds me a bit, and I mean this loosely, of Thomas Bernhard, except without his humor. Anybody ever found a joke in Sebald's work? ;-)

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 11, 2003):
[To Donald Satz] I'm with Don Satz on this one: that Rübsam remake series has some worthy performances in it.

I have the whole Bayer/Naxos series, plus 7 of the 16 Philips discs from Rübsam's first set (yeah, 7 of the 16...weird circumstances), plus the single "best of" Philips disc which is terrific. Additionally I have single discs of various things by Rogg, Leonhardt, Foccroulle, Isoir, Haselbock, Newman, Biggs, Koopman, Bowyer, Herrick, Preston, Thiry, Lagacé, Tachezi, Otto, and Winter. And then about 50 LPs of various other people, plus the old Walter Kraft boxed set of everything.

When I want to hear the organ works, I usually reach first for the two Rübsam versions (preferring the Philips if I have it), and Leonhardt, and Rogg. Then if (rarely) I didn't like what I heard, I check out some of the others.

And the Roberto Loreggian disc Jim just mentioned...I second the enthusiastic "thumbs-up" on that one, wonderful. I forgot about it as I have it shelved with Vivaldi, since the works on there are mostly transcriptions of Vivaldi. Tactus 672215; and there is a companion disc 672216 of Loreggian playing more of those concertos on harpsichord.

Donald Satz wrote (February 11, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] There are a number of Bach organ discs from the Hänssler series which I treasure. If I remember correctly, excellent artists like Marcon, Lücker, and Bryndorf have multiple discs. I don't recommend the Kay Johannsen recordings in the series; he tends to be rather flat and dour.There isn't much that's worse than dour performances on the organ.

Jim Morrison wrote (February 11, 2003):
Thanks for your help. Anybody have recommendations for the Clavierubung III?

Right now I'm looking at Rübsam/Naxos, Fagius, Herrick, Radulescu, and the full price Suzuki. Anybody have thoughts on those recordings?

Thanks,

Bradley Lehman wrote (February 11, 2003):
[To Jim Morrison] Jim, the only one of that list I've heard is Naxos/Rübsam...and of course you can listen to that online first to decide if you like it. :)

I'm listening to Rogg's right now. A treat, except that I have a defective pressing and the big E-flat prelude (my favorite part of the whole thing) skips in most of my players. I like the way this organ (Silbermann in Arlesheim) has the variable wind: the little transient dips in pitch when many notes are attacked simultaneously, or when the pedal note changes under a held chord in the manuals. That feature, which is typical of many of the organs from Bach's time, itself gives the playing a more human or breathing quality that I dig: in contrast with the rock-steady wind (and more mechanical "perfection") of more modern organs. Such an instrument with variable wind tells the player how to phrase the music sensitively; it is really a treat to play on them. And some current organ builders are going back to that design, for musical reasons.

No doubt there are some who would bewail this feature as a huge drawback, perhaps citing the famous anecdote in which Bach would draw all the stops and play huge chords to see if the instrument had good-enough lungs.

Thomas Braatz wrote (February 11, 2003):
Brad Lehman stated:
>>I like the way this organ (Silbermann in Arlesheim) has the variable wind: the little transient dips in pitch when many notes are attacked simultaneously, or when the pedal note changes under a held chord in the manuals. That feature, which is typical of many of the organs from Bach's time, itself gives the playing a more human or breathing quality that I dig: in contrast with the rock-steady wind (and more mechanical (perfection") of more modern organs. Such an instrument with variable wind tells the player how to phrase the music sensitively; it is really a treat to play on them. And some current organ builders are going back to that design, for musical reasons.
No doubt there are some who would bewail this feature as a huge drawback, perciting the famous anecdote in which Bach would draw all the stops and play huge chords to see if the instrument had good-enough lungs.<<

From Bach’s report on the organ in the Liebfrauenkirche in Halle (May 1, 1716):

After explaining in detail the situation with the bellows (the contract with the organ builder required only 9, but the organ builder added a 10th bellow – all duly noted by Bach), Bach determines a flaw nevertheless. In other words, he does not like the unsteady sound that is being produced:

Dahero man auch bey Tractirung des Hauptwerckes einiges Schwancken der Bälge wahr genommen.“

“For all those reasons given, I could hear some variability in the bellows when playing the full organ.” Not good! This is a ‘deformitè’ (Bach uses this French term) which offends Bach’s sense of ‘aequalitate,’ ‘egalite’ and ‘conformitè.’ In other words, Bach does not like ‘rough edges!’

The ‚anecdote’ that you refer to is clearly documented by Bach in his own handwriting:

Sie (die Bälge) haben auch die Probe ausgehalten, daß bey denen auff einmahl nieder gedruckten Clavibus so wohl des Manuals alß Pedals…“

„The bellows passed my test, which is to press as many keys on the manuals and pedals as possible…“

Another source (Bach-Dokumente item 90)

Silbermann, the famous organ builder who cosigned the Organ Evaluation (of the organ in the Wenzelskirche of Naumburg) with J. S. Bach on September 27, 1746 stated:

Die Bälge waren das erste, so ich in Gegenwart des Herrn Cantoris und Herrn Organistens probiren ließ, und mein Ausspruch war: Sie passirten. Denn, ich habe nicht gesehen, daß der Herr Capell-Meister das volle Werck gespielet, er dieselben aus dem Wind gebracht, oder sie wieder die Gebühr gelauffen seyn.“

Rough translation: The first thing I had Bach try out in my presence was to play the full organ to try out the bellows, but he was unable to make it ‘lose wind’ (variable wind or transient dips), so I said, “They’re ok.”

Thierry van Bastelaar wrote (February 12, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Looking at Brad's list below, I was wondering what happened of the complete organ series that Telefunken issued in parallel with its Leonhardt/Harnoncourt cantata series. Like the latter, the Chapuis organ recordings on LPs had the huge advantage of including the reduced-size scores. As far as I remember, these were good performances on historical instruments.

Does anyone know if they have been reissued on CDs?

 

Complete organ works

Dan Webre wrote (February 11, 2003):
I am wondering if anyone can recommend a good complete set of Bach's organ works. I've listened to clips of some of them at amazon.com, but I am still not sure.

Dan Webre wrote (February 11, 2003):
Mme Fluorine wrote:
< Anyone have any input on the 170 CD set of the complete Bach recordings? Is it worth it? I'm curious... >
I haven't heard anything about it but bits and pieces on the internet, but if you're looking for a good deal, ebay has a few sets up for bids at really good prices (under $200)

Chris Beaver wrote (July 10, 2003):
Try the set by Kevin Bowyer on Nimbus Records. 14 already published, last 3 in series due out by the end of 2003. Brilliant musicianship and audio quality. Played on Marcussen Organ of Sct.Hans Kirke, Odense, Denmark.

 

Complete Organ Works

Chas (Sweep Picker) wrote (August 17, 2003):
I was hoping that anyone could direct me to a particular artist who recorded all of Bach's Organ works. Hearing a Cantata is etheral and humbling but hearing an organ work by Bach is like Heavy Metal. I want the walls to shake with fear...better stop before I start a riot.

thanks,

Matthew Neugebauer wrote (August 17, 2003):
Chas wrote:
< Hearing a Cantata is etheral and humbling but hearing an organ work by Bach is like Heavy Metal >
hahaha-the cantatas can do quite a good job too, especially the festive ones with trumpets and timps blaring and the choir at full throttle! Just ask my brother when he's trying to listen to his hard rock-Bach and Handel can fiercly compete for the air waves!

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (August 17, 2003):
[To Chas] Bram Beekman, Peter Hurford, Kevin Bowyer, Olivier Vernet, Wolfgang Rübsam, Ton Koopman, Helmut Walcha, and Wolfgang Stockmeier. The problem is that VERY FEW of the existing earlier or variant forms of ALL Bach organ works ARE EVER RECORDED IN COMPLETE RECORDING EDITIONS. For example, with the exception of BWV 653b and (in 1 recording) BWV 668a, NONE of the earlier and/or variant forms of the Chorales of the so-called "Leipzig Manuscript" ARE EVER RECORDED. None (except Hurford and Stockmeier) has EVER recorded BWV 131a. With the exception of BWV 535a and BWV 545b, NONE of the earlier or variant forms of the Praeludien und Fugen (BWV 531-560) are EVER recorded. NOBODY has EVER redorded the earlier versions of BWV 566 and BWV 582.

Also there are some that ADVERTIZE to be Complete Editions, but are not (i.e., the one recorded by Lionel Rogg and the one recorded by Werner Jacob).

Paul Dirmeikis wrote (August 17, 2003):
Chas wrote:
< I was hoping that anyone could direct me to a particular artist who recorded all of Bach's Organ works. >
Here's my modest and personal point of view : for unknown reasons, although Bach is my favourite composer (with Stockhausen), I've always been quite non receptive to his organ works. Too grand, too solemn, too "churchy", with polyphonic lines too unintelligible, compared when played on harpsichord or piano...

Until I recently heard organist André Isoir (Calliope, French label), and all my former reluctances were swept away. It's clear, intelligible, with beautiful and varied timbres, and I don't feel anymore that incense and heavy church impression that I had when I happened to listen to some other organists (Marie-Claire Alain, Ton Koopman, Helmut Walcha, Michel Chapuis...). I now have 10 CDs from André Isoir's complete recordings of Bach's organ works and I am still enthusiastic.

Gene Hanson wrote (August 17, 2003):
[To Chas] Try Helmut Walcha or Lionel Rogg.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (August 18, 2003):
[To Paul Dirmeikis] The problem is that Isior (like Rogg, Alain, and Jacob) is NOT complete, even though advertised as a "Complete Edition". A TRULY COMPLETE edition would have about 20 or more CDs. Isior's edition does NOT include BWV 597, ALL variants of Bach works, etc. even the ones that I think come close (Rübsam, Hurford, and Stockmeier) do not (although they come close).

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (August 18, 2003):
[To Gene Hanson] Rogg???????????? Are you serious????????? He ONLY has 12 CDs, which does not EVEN COME CLOSE to the total number required to record ALL Bach's works EVEN EXCLUDING variant forms. He EXCLUDES VAST AMOUNTS OF AUTHENTIC MATERIAL (i.e., the Konzerte, the Praeludien und Fugen G-Dur (BWV 550) and a-Moll (BWV 551), the Fugenfragment c-Moll (BWV 562/2), the Fantasien BWV 570, 571 (which might beacceptable since this one is spurious), and 573, the Fuge Legrenzianum c-Moll (BWV 574), many of the various Choraele (BWV 690-765), and MOST of the Trios (BWV 584-586), etc.). Even Jacob, Hurford, Rübsam, and Koopman don't have ALL the works recorded (though they DO come close [16-18 or 19 CDs]). I put the total number of CDs needed to make a TRULY COMPLETE edition of Bach's organ works at 20+.

Gene Hanson wrote (August 18, 2003):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] I suggested Rogg because in a recent poll (I believe on this list) he was to most favored performer of Bach's organ works. It's sometimes a question of quality vs. quantity.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (August 18, 2003):
[To Gene Hanson] Even at that, though, there is a GREAT room for improvement in his interpretations. The ONLY work he did that I found better than other interpretations was his interpretation of BWV 611. I thought his interpretations of BWV 534 and 665 were VERY poor.

The other thing is that it is advertized as a "Complete Works" edition. That claim is VERY laughable. I have owned the ENTIRE set of 12 CDs that constitute his "Complete Works" edition. NOWHERE are the "Neumeister Choraele" included in it. NOWHERE are the 6 Konzerte included in it. NOWHERE are Praeludien und Fugen BWV 550 and 551 included in it. NOWHERE is BWV 563 included in it. NOWHERE are the bulk of the Fugues and Fantasias included in it. And forget about most of the Chorales. While some might like its sound, it should not even be mentioned in a discussion about COMPLETE WORKS editions.

Gene Hanson wrote (August 18, 2003):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] I think your opinion of the performances may be personal, given the critical praise Rogg has won and the preference for his works expressed by the majority of those who responded to the poll. I have to agree, though, that it is rather rediculous to advertise something as complete that does not even include the great fantasias and fugues.

Charles Francis wrote (August 18, 2003):
[To Gene Hanson] Yes, of the four "complete" sets I own, Rogg on Silbermann organ is the most satisfactory.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 18, 2003):
Organ works (Rogg) and completeness

David wrote about Rogg:
< I have owned the ENTIRE set of 12 CDs that constitute his "Complete Works" edition. NOWHERE are the "Neumeister Choraele" included in it. NOWHERE are the 6 Konzerte included in it. NOWHERE are Praeludien und Fugen BWV 550 and 551 included in it. NOWHERE is BWV 563 included in it. NOWHERE are the bulk of the Fugues and Fantasias included in it. And forget about most of the Chorales. While some might like its sound, it should not even be mentioned in a discussion about COMPLETE WORKS editions. >
The Neumeister chorales were not discovered until 15 years after Rogg recorded his set. How can this omission be blamed on him?

And, as for the marketing of the set, are you sure it says "Complete Organ Works" on the box? At: http://www.lionelrogg.ch/CDs/bach.hmo.jpg
it just looks to me as if it says "Organ Works" on the front. If they don't claim absolute completeness, what's the problem? (I have only the discs 10 and 11, i.e. the German Organ Mass and the Schuebler chorales and Canonic Variations.)

I like the sound of that organ, especially the variable wind, and think his tempi and articulation are pretty good also. I wish for more flexibility in Rogg's rhythm...but in that department he's at least some distance ahead of the Walcha-metronome. (If any extensively-recorded musician of the 20th century is the example of the "geometrical" approach Richard Taruskin describes, it's Walcha.)

But the bigger question is about completeness: why does somebody have to play EVERY documented extant note of Bach to be worthy, in your estimation? Can't artists be allowed to record only the works they feel
they can do well? Why is "incompleteness" a problem? I'd much rather hear a musician give a wonderful performance of an hour of music (or even just five minutes of music!) s/he can play really well, than get through 20 hours of music in an undistinguished manner just to give a complete traversal of the notes.

E. Douglas Jensen wrote (August 18, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] What would be most helpful would be some sort of suggestions for a "complete set" assembled from the various recordings by various performers, based on the recommenders' personal tastes. Personally, I care as much about the "sound" (the organ, the stops used, the church acoustics, the recording quality) as I do the "musicality" of the artist -- meaning I seek recordings that are exemplary in both dimensions.

Tomek wrote (August 18, 2003):
[To E. Douglas Jensen] I pretty much agree with Douglas' point of view, It's impossible for one man to record complete organ works by Bach (don't mentioning the cantatas) in the way that all pieces would be played in an equally fascinating way. Buying completes (I speak in general - not only Bach recording's) is a kind of short cut, not always a very happy one........

Pete Blue wrote (August 18, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] The points you make against a categorical requirement of "completeness" are well taken. I might only suggest that, since the state of Bach recordings is so healthy (or so it seems to me), with a plethora of great performances for all tastes, that one ought to be allowed to at least yearn for "completeness", though not to insist on it.

In fact, Paul's praise of André Isoir (whom I have only recently encountered for the first time and whose "complete" works are wonderful, the equal IMO of any on disc) reminds me of how far Bachmania has come: have you heard Isoir's constructions, not merely reconstructions, of Bach works (Organ Concerti, etc.)? Ingenious! I don't have his CD handy so I won't venture any specifics here, but I think it deserves a few posts on this List.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 18, 2003):
Pete Blue wrote:
< Isoir's constructions, not merely reconstructions, of Bach works (Organ Concerti, etc.)? Ingenious! I don't have his CD handy so I won't venture any specifics here, but I think it deserves a few posts on this List. >
I have only two of Isoir's series: disc 9 (Orgelbüchlein) and 15 (most of the Leipzig chorales). So far they haven't made enough impression on me that I'd have anything to say. That is, if they'd grabbed me I'd remember
it....

But in the concertos, I have a terrific disc by Roberto Loreggian of the BWV 593, 594, and 596 (all originally by Vivaldi). Nobody else that I've heard comes even close to this in gestural delivery, and the energy generated. He's done only these three, and no other organ discs (he's primarily a harpsichordist, and one of the best). That's a good example of somebody focusing on the pieces he can play really well, and not having to be complete about anything. The catalog number of this disc is Tactus 672215. There's a companion disc by Loreggian of concertos 972, 973, 976, and 978 played on harpsichord: 672216. Wow! When the playing is this good, why worry about other concertos that are "missing"?...just enjoy what's there.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (August 19, 2003):
[To Gene Hanson] I agree it may be personal, but it is also stylistic. The Chorale BWV 665 was written "Pro Organo Pleno", which means FOR FULL ORGAN, not for MUTED organ. Muting might be allright for trios and such, but NOT for Pleno works. Another example is his interpretation of BWV 534. Again it is foPleno and he treats it like a chamber work.

Also you STILL do not address the problem of Advertizement. If it is advertized as a "Complete Works" edition (which it is), even if it discounts the spurious and dubious works, it should still contain ALL authentic works (which it does NOT). That is what saves (in my mind) the recordings of Hurford, Koopman, Rübsam, Bowyers, and Alain. They might not be TOTALLY complete, but they contain ALL the authentic works (and in the case of the former 4, almost all of the spurious ones as well).

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (August 19, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] It has the same for Saorgin's recording of Buxtehude (Which also was advertized as a "Complete Works" edition). The title reads "l'Ouvre de Orgue" which LITTERALLY translates to "THE WORKS FOR ORGAN" (in other words, the COMPLETE works for organ). It SHOULD read (as many German collections do that are NOT complete) Auswahl or something along those lines. Also in regards to the Neumeister Choraele, they were discovered in the 1980s; the recording came out in the 1990s or 2000 (I don't remember which).

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (August 19, 2003):
[To Tomek] Stockmeier has done it (more or less), Rübsam has done it (nore or less), Hurford and Koopman have done it, and so has Vernet. Therefore I would venture to guess that it is not THAT impossible.

Johan van Veen wrote (August 19, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< But the bigger question is about completeness: why does somebody have to play EVERY documented extant note of Bach to be worthy, in your estimation? >
The main argument in favour of completeness is that if every organist makes his personal choice, the result is 20 or so recordings with BWV 565. Every organist seems to want to make impression with the same works, and others will never be recorded. Look what has happened with the cantatas: some of them are only available as part of complete recordings. If there were no complete recordings, they would probably never have been recorded.

< Can't artists be allowed to record only the works they feel they can do well? >
Sure, but the feeling of the organist isn't necessarily a feeling which is shared by the listener. And would any organist ever admit that he doesn't feel he can play a Bach organ work well?
Of course, in any complete recording there will be items which are not very well realised. But that can happen in recital CDs as well. If an organist records only one CD with organ works by Bach, what guarentees that the result will be an overall success?

< Why is "incompleteness" a problem? I'd much rather hear a musician give a wonderful performance of an hour of music (or even just five minutes of music!) s/he can play really well, than get through 20 hours of music in an undistinguished manner just to give a complete traversal of the notes. >
I agree but I also think that no organist will ever start a major undertaking as recording all organ works by Bach, if he doesn't like a respectable number of Bach's organ works. And perhaps no record company will start such an undertaking with an organist until they have the feeling he will give his best all the time.
But it would certainly be interesting to have a complete edition of Bach's organ works with different organists. That is the case with the Hänssler Edition. I have heard several of the recordings, but I can't say that the result is better than most complete recordings by just one organist I know. Some of the recordings in the Hänssler Edition are pretty awful (in particular those with Kay Johannsen) or rather boring (Bine Katrine Bryndorf).

Johan van Veen wrote (August 19, 2003):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< Stockmeier has done it (more or less), Rübsam has done it (nore or less), Hurford and Koopman have done it, and so has Vernet. Therefore I would venture to guess that it is not THAT impossible. >
There is also Hans Fagius (BIS, later licensed by Brilliant Classics). On CPO Gerhard Weinberger is involved in a complete recording and on Challenge Classics Jacques van Oortmerssen is recording Bach's complete organ works.

Gene Hanson wrote (August 19, 2003):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< I agree it may be personal, but it is also stylistic. The Chorale BWV 665 was written "Pro Organo Pleno", which means FOR FULL ORGAN, not for MUTED organ. Muting might be allright for trios and such, but NOT for Pleno works. Another example is his interpretation of BWV 534. Again it is for Pleno and he treats it like a chamber work.
Also you STILL do not address the problem of Advertizement. If it is advertized as a "Complete Works" edition (which it is), even if it discounts the spurious and dubious works, it should still contain ALL authentic works (which it does NOT). That is what saves (in my mind) the recordings of
Hurford, Koopman, Rübsam, Bowyer, and Alain. They might not be TOTALLY complete, but they contain ALL the authentic works (and in the case of the former 4, almost all of the spurious ones as well). >
So sue them for false advertising.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 19, 2003):
Completeness

Johan van Veen wrote:
< The main argument in favour of completeness is that if every organist makes his personal choice, the result is 20 or so recordings with BWV 565. Every organist seems to want to make impression with the same works, and others will never be recorded. >
Point taken.

The problem is even more acute with the works of Froberger. I have a (not quite but almost complete) discography at: http://www-personal.umich.edu/~bpl/froberger.htm

Many of the pieces have received exactly one recording: Egarr's as part of his complete set. Meanwhile, Froberger's handful of "greatest hits" that every harpsichordist knows have been recorded more than a dozen times each.

Bradley Lehman wrote (August 19, 2003):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< Also in regards to the Neumeister Choraele, they were discovered in the 1980s; the recording came out in the 1990s or 2000 (I don't remember which). >
Lionel Rogg's performance of Bach organ works for Harmonia Mundi was recorded in 1970. The publication date is on the back of the cases. 1970. That is, it was first an LP set.

A CD reissue, according to my copy here (discs packaged in individual plastic cases: I have discs 10 and 11), was in 1992. It was then re-reissued in 1999 with the discs in cardboard sleeves.

1970 was--as I said the first time--15 years before the Neumeister chorales were published, and therefore (as I said) it shouldn't be held against Rogg that he did not play them in 1970.

This page shows the list of works on the 12 CDs: http://www.medieval.org/emfaq/cds/hmu2772.htm

Evidently you assumed that the recordings were new in 1992 or 1999?

 

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