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Organ Works BWV 525-771
Recorded Sets of Bach's Complete Organ Works
General Discussions - Part 2 (2004-2005)

Continue from Part 1

Organ Box Sets: Marie-Claire Alain vs. Peter Hurford

Mortimer wrote (April 14, 2004):
Within the next couple of days, I'm going to be ordering one of two box sets of Bach's complete organ works: Either Marie-Claire Alain's Elektra box set, or Peter Hurford's Polygram set.

Does anyone have any experience with either of these? Amazon reviews are...best taken with a grain of salt. But from what I can tell, neither are bad sets.

I've heard BWV 540 by Hurford and quite like it, but wasn't as motivated by his performance of the Passacagalia and Fugue.

How would you characterize the two performers' styles, recording quality, registration of the instruments, acoustics, etc?

Thanks for any help - this isn't cheap! ($135 Hurford/$160 Alain)

F. Sato wrote (April 14, 2004):
[To Mortimer] I have four sets of Bach organ works, i.e, ones of Helmut Walcha, Lionel Rogg, those in Hänssler's edition, and Marie-Claire Alain's (latest). I prefer some of Kay Johannsen's eloquent playing in Hänssler's edition, and I also love Marie-Claire Alain's fluent performance.

(BTW, I got an Alain's box set at a discount price at my local CD shop (about $55.00).)

John Pike wrote (April 14, 2004):
[To Mortimer] I have Hurford's complete set and several of the Alain set. I haven't listened to them for a while but both are very good. I think Hurford has the edge and gets a slightly better review on the whole in the Penguin guide to classical CDs, a very reliable guide, but both sets are warmly recommended there.

Aryeh Oron wrote (April 15, 2004):
[To Mortimer] I have couple of sets of Bach complete organ works (including Hurford, but not Alain). I have listened to them all, although I have not yet indulged in detailed comparative listening to them as I did with the cantatas. One thing I can tell you for sure, and it is that every generalization regarding the organ sets as a whole is risky as any similar generalization regarding the cantata sets. The world of Bach organ works is wide and varied. It is beyond one performer's capabilities to cover all the potential possibilities of these works and come up with an idealistic set. Nevertheless, despite what I have just said, when I want to listen to the organ works, I find myself again and again returning to Lionel Rogg (Harmonia Mundi) and Wolfgang Rübsam (Philips). The playing of both, although different from each other and reflecting individuality, have freshness, naturalness, spontaneity and sense of structure and direction, which I find very compelling.

Fablo Fagoaga wrote (April 15, 2004):
[To Mortimer] Not being an expert, I can give you my personal impressions. I own both sets (assuming you refer to the third set recorded by Alain, widely available), and restraining the choices to them, I'd keep Hurford's.

Style: (to HIP or not to HIP, that is the question)
Hurford shows clear articulation, rather quick tempi. I just like it, he is dynamic, but certainly not too concerned about HIP approach. Of course, we are not talking Wendy Carlos, but if you have an unconditional HIP ear, he
can make you a bit nervous. But if you focus on "efective" performance, without any unacceptable compromise of artistic profficiency, he's your guy.
Alain: I guess she is not precisely a HIP referent (Rogg would be), but she is ULTRA-hip if you check her set side by side with Hurford's. Good thing: sweet readings when it comes to chorales, but, to my taste, the set as a
whole is a bit TOO "evenly" played. Conservative, but boring if you have the unhappy idea of feeding a changer with this box set.

Instruments:
Hurford, many, modern brilliant organs, with disctinct personalities. I give him another point here. Colorful registration, may be a by out of place in the Chorale Preludes.
Alain: Silberman. HIP, but when you multiply it by 14, seems to be TOO MUCH HIP to survive (see my note at the end). Registration a bit too uniformed.

Acoustics & recording quality:
I don't have a distinctive image of this matter, but may be this is a point form Alain. Some pieces by Hurford sound a bit harsh. May be instrumental variety turned even results a difficult goal to achieve.

NOTE: Key point to judge my view is that I usually play records entirely, which makes a +/- 74 minute Organ marathon a severe task if you don't have reasonably evident "nuances".

Bradley Lehman wrote (April 16, 2004):
[To Aryeh Oron] I agree with Aryeh's comments here on this.

One other point of interest--even though I'm not really a Walcha fan--I saw recently that the late 1940s/early 1950s recordings by him are now available as a boxed set, slim packaging. It also includes some improvisations by him, along with all those mono recordings of Bach at Cappel and several other organs.

Dan wrote (April 18, 2004):
I own the Walcha complete set (well, almost complete) and have heard alot of Alain's (most recent) and Hurford's set as well as Rübsam (both Philips and Naxos) and Koopman. For purchasing a whole set, I prefer either Rübsam (Philips), Walcha, or Alain although I cannot see myself buying more than one complete set. As you may or may not know, Rübsam was a student of Alain and Walcha, and the Philips set is supposed to bear evidence to this. Personally, however, I would rather buy individual discs by multiple organists than a few complete sets. If you are interested in the organ works, I strongly recommend Dupre on Pearl, Cochereau on Philips, and Richter on Deutsche Grammophone (LP-not sure what label his recordings have been released under). The Dupre disc was recording on 78s in the 1920's and despite the limited technology used, these are remarkable performances. Chochereau embodies the clarity of his teacher and uses his organ at Notre Dame with
great restraint. Richter represents the school of Karl Straube and Gunther Ramin, and performs on a Marcussen organ in Denmark. For something different try Jean Guillou or Virgil Fox. There are alot of bad ones, but the
complete sets of Alain and Hurford are very high quality. I would stay away from the academic approach (and ridiculously high price) of Christopher Herrick on Hy.

Donald Satz wrote (April 18, 2004):
[To Dan Webre] I rather enjoy the Herrick recordings, although his smooth lines are sometimes hard to take. The Hänssler Bach organ recordings made for the Bach Anniversary are very good and generally on historical organs; I do advise staying away from the Hänssler/Kay Johannsen discs. A very recent excellent Bach organ issue comes from Gillian Weir on Priory # 753 (2CDs).

Dan wrote (April 18, 2004):
[To Dan Webre] From what I have heard of the Herrick set, his performances are not bad, but vastly overpriced. If you thought the Alain set was expensive! Besides that, I just don't think they're special enough to merit a complete set.

I have heard Gillian Weir in concert twice (once at the famous Mander Organ at St. Ignatius Loyola in New York) and I have only heard her play the 4th trio sonata of Bach. Here first recordings from the mid-70's were alot different than her more recent ones. She plays the 3rd movement of the E-flat major trio sonata faster than anyone I've heard! When I have heard her live, she has had generally much more relaxed tempi and not so much into sowing off (she is in her 60's now). I am not sure but I think she might've studied briefly with Marie-Claire Alain.

Donald Satz wrote (April 18, 2004):
[To Dan Webre] You keep saying that the Herrick is overpriced, but that's just the regular price of Hyperion cd's. In Albuquerue, Hyperion costs $18.99 a pop.

F. Sato wrote (April 14, 2004):
Donald Satz wrote:
< The Hänssler Bach organ recordings made for the Bach Anniversary are very good and generally on historical organs; I do advise staying away from the Hänssler/Kay Johannsen discs. >
I understand this must be a kind of joke.
I often pick up Johannsen disc (Trio Sonatas) from the Hänssler set.

Donald Satz wrote (April 18, 2004):
[To F. Sato] Sorry, I didn't respond favorably to the Johannsen CD of the Trio Sonatas, finding him heavy and dour too much of the time.

Dan wrote (April 18, 2004):
[To Donald Satz] yeah but most of the time if you buy a a complete set, the price per CD is less- I think the entire Alain set runs about $130-150 for 14 discs, about $10/disc while at Virgin the Christopher Herrick set costs well over $200. By the way $18.99 is still alot for one CD, it maybe normal Hyperion price but most classical CDs are 16.99 or less.

Dan wrote (April 18, 2004):
[To F. Sato] André Isoir has a very good set of the trio sonatas and some extras on Caliope. A little slower than most, but very good. By the way, I bought a CD of John Butt playing the trio sonatas because there was a sticker on it that said "flawless"-Grammophone. I don't agree at all.

Donald Satz wrote (April 18, 2004):
[To Dan Webre] Right, but the Alain is a much older set.

Donald Satz wrote (April 18, 2004):
[To Dan Webre] I have to agree with you there - Butt is a far distance from my ideal.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 18, 2004):
Dan Webre wrote:
< By the way $18.99 is still alot for one CD, it maybe normal Hyperion price but most classical CDs are 16.99 or less. >
If you think, for a moment, about what you're actually getting for $18.99 (which is less, by the way, than they cost in the UK) is that really so expensive?

Donald Satz wrote (April 18, 2004):
[To Dan Webre] You might want to check out the Gillian Weir/Priory 2-cd set of Bach organ music that's just been released. I praised it in my review on MusicWeb, and BBC Music Magazine did likewise in its April issue. Just a suggestion - I have no idea how your personal tastes run.

Donald Satz wrote (April 18, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] Personally, I don't pay attention to price when it comes to making buying decisions. The price differentials don't add up to much in the long run (as Gabriel indicates below).

One reason I don't pay attention is that I rarely buy big box sets. I did acquire the Rogg set, but that didn't cost much. I bought the Herrick one at a time when each was first released. Although rather pricey, they are a bargain compared to the Bowyer/Nimbus releases I bought that don't do much for me.

Leila Batarseh wrote (April 18, 2004):
Donald Satz wrote:
< I have to agree with you there - Butt is a far distance from my ideal. >
Yeah, not having heard him before I recently made the mistake of buying the 2cd reissue of his Kuhnau recordings on harpsichord and organ. Couldn't stop yawning.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (April 19, 2004):
Donald Satz wrote:
< Although rather pricey, they are a bargain compared to the Bowyer/Nimbus releases I bought that don't do much for me. >
Interesting - I love the organ that Bowyer plays. Gorgeous....

Barry Murray wrote (April 19, 2004):
[To Leila Batarseh] Very interesting that you mention Butt's Kuhnau recording. I have been seriously considering buying it, as I have nothing by Kuhnau or by Butt. Is it really a yawn fest?

Dan wrote (April 19, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] I usually don't either, but if the complete set is released on disc according to type of piece (i.e. toccatas), you don't get a well-rounded sense of how the artist plays. I am very glad I paid $18.99 for a 50-minute recording of Dupre organ music by John Scott.

Leila Batarseh wrote (April 19, 2004):
[To Barry Murray] I bought it for a similar reason - I couldn't find any other recordings of the biblical sonatas, and the 2nd disc seemed like a nice bonus. And perhaps I exaggerated slightly - there were a few bits I liked - but overall I tended to find myself thinking that the music might have been rather delightful if it had only been performed in an entirely different manner. It just seemed plodding and heavy-handed. I listened to it twice, trying to give it a chance, then put it away and haven't listened to it since. I realize this is getting off topic, but can anybody recommend any good Kuhnau recordings? Does anyone have a higher opinion of Butt, based on other recordings?

Dan wrote (April 20, 2004):
Organ works

Does anyone know who was the first to record the complete organ works of Bach? Is it Walcha?

Aryeh Oron wrote (April 20, 2004):
[To Dan Webre] I believe it was indeed Helmut Walcha, whose first set of Bach's, Organ Works, recorded 1947-1952, was releaeas by DGG couple of months ago.

I am unvestigating the area of complete recorded sets of Bach's Organ Works. I hope to report to the BRML about my findings in the near future.

Dan wrote (April 20, 2004):
[To Aryeh Oron] I think Walter Kraft was an early one as well.

Zev Bechler wrote (April 20, 2004):
[To Dan Webre] More probably Walter Kraft ?

Michael Rajewski (Poland) wrote (April 23, 2004):
Donald Satz wrote:
< Sorry, I didn't respond favorably to the Johannsen cd of the Trio Sonatas, finding him heavy and dour too much of the time. >
Usually i read all messeges but this time i try to recommend organ works. Among many preformances i have heard it seems to me the most beatiful are K. Bowyer's recordings.They are recorded on Marcussen instrument in Denmark. Maybe some P.&Fuges are played to fast for me (P.&F e-moll, C -dur) but registration is remarkable mainly in triosonatas.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (Ap23, 2004):
[To Michael Rajewski] I agree. The organ is a wonderful instrument and Bowyer's registrations are imaginative and beautifully coloured.

 

Bach - Complete Organ Works - Simon Preston (DG)

John Gavin wrote (April 23, 2004):
I've finally gotten around to listening to this set in depth. What tips the scales in it's favor over the other sets for me is the almost unprecedented excellence in the sound engineering by DG. The sound is warm, vibrant, and with a very elegant soundstage which makes listening to it an absolute pleasure. The recording guys at DG have
discovered the secret of recording baroque tracker organs - and I hope whatever it is they do spreads to others in the industry.

I don't want to slight Simon Preston either, whose experience with this music(probably 40 years) shows right from the beginning (Trio Sonatas disc I). I wish that DG would record more of Preston. I'm feeling a craving to acquire the complete Messiaen on DG (Latry?) just for that glorious sound. Anyone know this set?

P.S. - Rübsam's Phillips set is highly recommendable, but doesn't quite convey the sense of space-dimension of the DG. This is admittedly a sort of luxury, but it's a quality that I particularly cherish in organ recordings.

Richard Loeb wrote (April 23, 2004):
[To John Gavin] I go back to the Chapuis who makes every piece exciting and dramatic and that's quite a feat.

Raymond Hall wrote (April 23, 2004):
John Gavin wrote:
< I've finally gotten around to listening to this set in depth. What tips the scales in it's favor over the other sets for me is the almost unprecedented excellence in the sound engineering by DG. The sound is warm, vibrant, and with a very elegant soundstage which makes listening to it an absolute pleasure. The recording guys at DG have discovered the secret of recording baroque tracker organs - and I hope whatever it is they do spreads to others in the industry. >
If you want Bach straight and unadorned, and off the leaf, then Fagius on Brilliant Classics is OK. Originally on BIS, with a variety of Swedish organs, the sound is quite full and very good.

Some, or many of the Chorales are a bit of a plod (yawn), but generally the set is worth getting. Fagius is not into any histrionics though, and others may prefer their Bach with more panache.

Matthew B. Tepper wrote (April 23, 2004):
What does he do about The Art of Fugue? (And for that matter, has Lionel Rogg's 1970-ish EMI recording ever found its way to CD?)

 

Rübsam's complete organ works

Neil Halliday wrote (May 4, 2004):
I have listened to the first two CD's (of 16).

The engineering of the disks is excellent; and the sound of the organ - a Metzler, in St. Nikolaus Church, Frauenfeld - is magnificent.

The only reservation I have at this stage is the fast tempo adopted in some of the grander works, known as the "Great" preludes and fugues; in these cases the star of the show is sound of the organ itself, which is always exciting. (Paradoxically, movements such as the Prelude from BWV 544 (B minor) are more exhilirating if taken at a more moderate tempo than heard in this recording).

[A comparison with Richter for timings of the 'Dorian' Toccata and Fugue (BWV 538) indeed shows Rübsam may in general opt for faster readings: Rübsam, Toccata: 4.47, Fugue 6.41; Richter, T 6.20, F 9.14. But I prefer the sound of the Metzler to Richter's Silbermann].

The registrations are varied and interesting, and the smaller works are generally delightful.

Bradley Lehman wrote (May 4, 2004):
Neil Halliday wrote:
< I have listened to the first two CD's (of 16).
The engineering of the disks is excellent; and the sound of the organ - a Metzler, in St. Nikolaus Church, Frauenfeld - is magnificent. >
That's the old Philips set, not to be confused with Rübsam's remake on Naxos. It's been out of print for years; where did you get one?

(I have only 7/16 of it, from eBay a few years ago.)

< The only reservation I have at this stage is the fast tempo adopted in some of the grander works, known as the "Great" preludes and fugues; in these cases the star of the show is sound of the organ itself, which is always exciting. (Paradoxically, movements such as the Prelude from BWV 544 (B minor) are more exhilirating if taken at a more moderate tempo than heard in this recording). >
To some, maybe. I wouldn't say that's any manner of immutable truth. Who's to say what exhilarates somebody else?

Neil Halliday wrote (May 5, 2004):
Bradley Lehman asked:
"That's the old Philips set, not to be confused with Rübsam's remake on Naxos. It's been out of print for years; where did you get one?"
I went to amazon.de and found a new set in one of the second hand stores. But I can't seem to repeat the feat, in order to give you a URL; amazon now just ask me to wait for a second-hand copy to become available. Did I get the last available copy? (The name of the company on the packet slip is 'Zumm', email address is: Info@Zumm.de ).

More impressions: on CD 3, Rübsam is too fast in the 'Great' fugue of BWV 542 (G minor).

In a comparison with Marcel Dupre in BWV 548 (E minor), Rübsam loses some nobility in the Prelude (with his faster tempo), but gains in the Fugue ('Wedge'), with his faster tempo giving a more brilliant and exciting reading. (Dupre's slower reading perhaps tends to drag somewhat, in this fugue).

But you are correct - all these comments on speed are personal opinions. Perhaps I need to learn to play these pieces myself.....

Meanwhile, this is a tremendous feast of music!

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (May 5, 2004):
[To Neil Halliday] I think that it is very interesting that you brin up the Praeludium und Fuge h-Moll BWV 544. I think (after looking at the score and the autograph) that it has yet to be played accurately. To me, it speaks of two influences: Buxtehude and Georg Böhm and French music. If one looks at the score, one would see that there is a lot of passages in dotted rhythm or near-dotted rhythm. Even the overall structure of the Praeludium is very reminiscent of the old French Ouverture, although modified along the lines of Buxtehude. Therefore, if I were performing it, I would make it a lot more jostly-sounding than in most recordings.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 5, 2004):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< Therefore, if I were performing it, I would make it a lot more jostly-sounding than in most recordings. >
What's 'jostly-sounding'/

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (May 6, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] Jolty, uneven.

Neil Halliday wrote (May 6, 2004):
Rübsam's complete organ works: CD 4

A couple of major disappointments here.

Five part Fantasia in C minor BWV 562.

Rübsam surprisingly selects a somewhat 'foggy', quietish registration for this magnificent work, and maintains it unchanged throughout the whole piece. Both my copies of the score suggest adding stops at appropriate places, building up to a 'double forte' for a very grand finish, with the final eleven bars on the long held C in the pedal.

Worse, he takes liberties with the the score which result in a performance that sounds to me like he was tipsy at the time.

1. Why treat the descending quavers in the second half of the subject as appoggiaturas? This nearly always destroys confidence and nobility, in slow moving music such as this, IMO.

2. As if aware that he has to do something to make up for the unvarying registration, in addition to the crazy rhythmic feature noted above, Rübsam introduces some wildly varying, mainly distracting, ornamentation throughout the piece.

Such liberties with the score, while they may be part of baroque tradition, nearly always achieve little more than distracting this listener.

The Toccata, Adagio and Fugue BWV 564.

Satisfactory, except that Rübsam actually reduces the registration for the bridge passage at the end of the Adagio. Surely this passage is meant to be a flourish, an outburst to awaken the listener from the 'reverie' of the lovely preceding section, in preparation for the exciting Fugue to come.

In any case, with this performance, the amazing dissonance of Bach's seven part writing here is totally absent and completley under-whelming.

The Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor BWV 582.

While the Passaglia starts out well, Rübsam unnecessarily increases the speed for the fugue, resulting in unclarity of the notes of the fugue counter-subject when played on the pedals and an overall generally rushed impression.

It seems he and I are on different wavelengths. I find the well-known 'grand' pieces generally to be too fast. The smaller pieces are fine.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 6, 2004):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< Jolty, uneven. >
Why is that more accurate?

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (May 9, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] Look at the score. Look at the tempo. Look at the inherent rhytm. This music speaks to me more of Couperin than Frescobaldi, and Couperin was more jolty and lively than Frescobaldi ever was.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (May 9, 2004):
[To Neil Halliday] I have often had problems with his interpretation of the Phantasie und Fuge c-Moll BWV 562. Here are my points of contention:

1. It is too quiet. This music speaks to me of heartfelt anguish (much akin to its relative eontemporary the Praeludium und Fuge h-Moll BWV 544), and should therefore be plyed in a loud and progressively louder register (much like Hurford's version).

2. It is too smooth. This (like BWV 544) is a very French work. It should be played accordingly.

3. Where is the Fuge? He (much like the vast majority of performers that record this work) leaves the Fuge off.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 9, 2004):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< Look at the score. Look at the tempo. Look at the inherent rhytm. This music speaks to me more of Couperin than Frescobaldi, and Couperin was more jolty and lively than Frescobaldi ever was. >
This doesn't answer the question!

Neil Halliday wrote (May 10, 2004):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. writes (of Rübsam's performance):
<"I have often had problems with his interpretation of the Phantasie und Fuge c-Moll BWV 562. Here are my points of contention:
1. It is too quiet. This music speaks to me of heartfelt anguish (much akin to its relative eontemporary the Praeludium und Fuge h-Moll BWV 544), and should therefore be plyed in a loud and progressively louder register (much like
Hurford's version).
2. It is too smooth. This (like BWV 544) is a very French work. It should be played accordingly.
3. Where is the Fuge? He (much like the vast majority of performers that record this work) leaves the Fuge off.">

We agree on point #1.

I'm not sure what you mean by point #2. I personally don't think there should be much rhythmic variation from the score as notated.

Point #3. According to the notes by Higgs and Bridge (Novello edition): "It is said to have been originally associated with the well-known fugue in C minor (which is now part of BWV 546)".

Confirming this, the notes to BWV 546 comment: "According to Spitta, the Prelude was not originally associated with the Fugue...", but now is. So the Fantasia is now a stand piece, apparently.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (May 16, 2004):
[To Neil Halliday] It is true about BWV 546, particularly the Praeludium not necessarily being associated with the Fuge. However, in the case of BWV 562, there is no evidence to suggest that the Phantasie was ever associated with the Fuge from BWV 546.

Also, I would question again the authorities that you use to support the claim you make about the Fuge. Are they at all associated with any standing research organizations or publications, such as the Bach-Jahrbuch? I favor the comment you use by Spitta, not only because he was a Bach biographer, but also because he was a scholar of Bach and his time (as evidenced by his collaboration with Max Seiffert on the first edition of Buxtehude organ works) and was a member of the Bach-Gesellschafft, which as you are (I am sure) aware was not just a publishing group, but also a major research institution. Its closing after 1900 was ended the same year by the
institution of the Neu Bach-Gesellschafft, whose primary focus was to publish Bach's music, establish a Bach museum in Eisenach, fund performances of Bach's music, and Bach research as borne out by the Bach-Jahrbuch.

Also, to me (at least), Novello has no credibility as does Breitkopf und Haertel, the BGA, or the NBA, or even Schweitzer's edition of Bach organ works. To me, the only thing that Novello has as far as credibility is in the area of Mendelssohn organ works, especially in it publication of all Mendelssohn organ works.

 

Complete Organ Works

Ken Edmonds wrote (May 30, 2004):
What is the general consensus of the list regarding Lionel Rogg's complete organ works set? www.berkshirerecordoutlet.com has the complete set for $48 and I was wondering if it was worth it.

I started collecting Ton Koopman's set on Teldec, but they do not seem available in the U.S. at the moment. (I can order it from Europe, but with the international shipping and exchange rate right now, that will be fairly pricey.)

Berkshire also has the set by Wolfgang Stockmeier for $39.80. I have not heard of this set before now. Any comments on this one?

Thanks,

Donald Satz wrote (May 30, 2004):
[To Ken Edmonds] For complete sets, I find Rogg's the most consistently rewarding - worth many multiples of $48. Stockmeier is no slouch and the price is great; I prefer his set to the Bowyer.

Charles Francis wrote (May 30, 2004):
[To Donald Satz] Agreed on both points.

Peter Bright wrote (May 30, 2004):
[To Donald Satz & Charles Francis] What do the two of you make of Christopher Herrick's set (Hyperion)?

Thanks,

Donald Satz wrote (May 30, 2004):
[To Peter Bright] The only thing I don't like about Herrick is that his phrasing can be extremely smooth. That aside, the sound is great, his rhythms are enticing, and he captures the emotional content that I desire. The only significant drawback is the price tag.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 31, 2004):
Donald Satz wrote:
"The only thing I don't like about Herrick is that his phrasing can be extremely smooth. That aside, the sound is great, his rhythms are enticing, and he captures the emotional content that I desire."
The istruments he uses are rather delicious, by and large, aren't they?

Donald Satz wrote (May 31, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] Yes, they give off very nice sounds. If I remember right, most of them are not historical organs.

Herrick isn't about the dark side - more heroic and uplifting.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (May 31, 2004):
[To Ken Edmonds] Lionel Rogg's recording complete????????? That is laughable!!!!!!!!!!! Not only does he include the works that have been attributed to Bach but are now considered doubtful or spurious, but he fails to include many of the definitely authentic works. For me, the only thing that saves his recording is his interpretation of "Christum wir sollen loben schon". That any recording of Bach's Orgelwerke would dare to call itself complete with only 12 discs is beyond me.

Nor does he bother to record the various versions of the works that he does record. At least Hurford and Koopman attempt to throw in some of the variant and earlier versions of the works.

Donald Satz wrote (May 31, 2004):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] Perhaps David would like to sell his copy of the set to Ken? Could be a win-win situation.

Pablo Fagoaga wrote (May 31, 2004):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] Probably we will agree on that recording companies more than ofter make abuse of ambiguous expresions such as "Complete Works" to make you think of the set as "THE Complete Works" when the real thing is that they "only" meant that the works included are played in entirely...no comments ;-)

But I wouldn't be that rude with Rogg's set.

The Neumeister Chorales, for instance, are missing just because the set was recorded on 1970, way before the discovery of the mentioned works. Indeed, some other exclusions are more controversial, as it goes for the
adaptation of other composers' orchestral concertos, but I still appreciate some unusual qualities of the rendition, like recording in a single year, and on a single, historical instrument, that I put above "completeness" at least in this case.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 31, 2004):
Donald Satz wrote:
"Yes, they give off very nice sounds. If I remember right, most of them are not historical organs."
They're all modern Metzler organs aren't they? Heretically, perhaps, I tend to prefer neo-Baroque instruments to echt-Baroque ones.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (May 31, 2004):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
"Not only does he not include the works that have been attributed to Bach but are now considered doubtful or spurious, but he fails to include many of the definitely authentic works."
If a work is no longer deemed to be Bach, why should it be in a set of the complete organ works of Bach I wonder?! Perhaps David would approve of Kevin Bowyer, who includes absolutely everything that has ever been attributed to Bach in his series?

Leila Batarseh wrote (May 31, 2004):
[To Pablo Fagoaga] Anyway, I just looked at my Rogg set, and the word "complete" doesn't appear anywhere on it! :>)

Ken Edmonds wrote (May 31, 2004):
Donald Satz wrote:
< Perhaps David would like to sell his copy of the set to Ken? Could be a win-win situation. >
I was going to suggest that before I read your response. I'd even pay him $48 for it! Anyway, yesterday I thought I would just try to ask a simple question about Bach recordings of all things. I actually tried my best to word my question in a way that would not elicit a caustic reply. Thank you David for finding that fatal flaw in my question! Perhaps the question should have been worded: "What is the general consensus of the list regarding Lionel Rogg's incomplete set of organ works that may or may not be attributed to Bach?" Perhaps the general consensus part is too much to ask for, though.

Mats Winter wrote (May 31, 2004):
<>

Ken Edmonds wrote (May 31, 2004):
[To Mats Winther] <>

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (June 4, 2004):
[To Pablo Fagoaga] I apologize for the tone, but as I have stated in this forum before (on the same subject), if they advertise it as a complete set (which they do), then it should be complete.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (June 4, 2004):
[To Gabriel Jackson] Actually, I would, except that he also falls into the traditional pattern, too. He does not include, for example, BWV 597. As far as I understand, this has not yet been discarded as not authentic.

Donald Satz wrote (June 4, 2004):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] But it isn't advertised as complete. Where on the front or back cover or in the booklet is it called complete?

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (June 4, 2004):
[To Donald Satz] If they meant to be true to the recording, they would have used the French version of "Auswaehlte Orgelwerke" ("Selected Organ Works"). Instead, they say "L'Ouvre pour Orgue" ("The Works for Organ"). The meaning is clear: They mean to present a "Complete Organ Works" edition. They did the same thing for Saorgin's recording of Buxtehude Organ Works. It, too, was incomplete. Even Hurford, Koopman, Rübsam, and Stockmeier are somewhat incomplete, but they do more than Rogg. And Stockmeier does include all the Organ Works. The only reason I consider his recording somewhat incomplete is because of the fact that he only includes final versions, none of the variants or early versions.

Donald Satz wrote (June 4, 2004):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] "Selected Organ Works" - you must be kidding. There's no way that any record company would issue a 12-cd set of Bach organ music and call it that. Typically, single discs uses the term "selected".

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (June 4, 2004):
[To Donald Satz] And yet, look at the works recorded. 99% of them are sets of pieces (the Tokkaten, the Orgelbuechlein, the Choralpartiten and Choralvariationen (excepting BWV 770 and 771, of course), the "Leipziger Choraele", the "Schuebler Choraele", the Phantasien (except BWV 561, 563, 570-571, and 573), the Fugen (except BWV 576-577, BWV 580-581), the Clavierbuechlein Dritter Theil (except the Duetten BWV 802-805), the 22 Praeludien und Fugen (except BWV 551), etc.). The various non-set Choraele are very few. He does not record the Praeludien BWV 567-569. He does not record the Fuge BWV 562/2. In fact, there is a very select list of the works that he does record.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 4, 2004):
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
"Actually, I would, except that he also falls into the traditional pattern, too. He does not include, for example, BWV 597. As far as I understand, this has not yet been discarded as not authentic."
It's in volume 14, actually.

Gabriel Jackson wrote (June 4, 2004):
[To Donald Satz] David is very particular in his demands, and quite pedantic about them, as we have seen before. Since they are so rarely met, he must have a very frustrating time.

Bradley Lehman wrote (June 7, 2004):
< "Actually, I would, except that he also falls into the traditional pattern, too. He does not include, for example, BWV 597. As far as I understand, this has not yet been discarded as not authentic." >
597 is in the "dubious works" appendix of BWV (1998).

Personally, I think the criterion for inclusion or exclusion of a piece of music in a program should be its musical quality, along with the performer's commitment to it (and ability to play it well); not the attribution of a composer's name. To praise all works that are attributed to Bach, and discard any that are not, is to commit an ad hominem judgment (and a prejudice) against the music: as if Bach-on-a-bad-day is automatically better than someone-else-on-a-good-day; or vice versa.

As for being able to recognize musical quality: to sharpen that ability, go to music school and learn how music works, along with as many instruments as possible; and improvise and arrange and compose.

As for the marketing of "complete" sets, who cares? Just look at them carefully before buying, and if they don't have the pieces you want to hear, don't buy it. Or, buy it anyway to hear the other things, or to hear pieces you don't know yet. Hear lots of music. How is this difficult?

Pablo Fagoaga wrote (June 10, 2004):
[To Leila Batarseh] It's true. They didn't even claimed so. Excuse me for my del, but I had some problems with my PC.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (June 20, 2004):
[To Bradley Lehman] I agree as to the inclusion issue. After all, we did not live when Bach did, so we could not truly make a judgement either way. There might be stylistic differences, but in the area of Orgelwerke and Klavierwerke, where there was such a diversity of styles in Bach's writing from his early years to his death, excluding a single work might be detrimental because one could not tell for sure if it was by Bach or not. Case in point: the Acht kleine Praeludien und Fugen.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (July 10, 2004):
Dan Webre wrote:
< 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. >
Stockmeier's, Hurford's, Koopman's, and Rübsam's recordings, and the CPO series. Some others are Kevin Bowyer's and Marie-Claire Alain's.

 

No Subject

Richard van Schelven wrote (June 17, 2004):
I just wanted to say that I got the Stockmeier CDs for $40.00 :) I received them today and after hearing some of my reference pieces, i.e. BWV 622, 651, 572 and 709 I must say that I am pleasantly surprised. I have the organ works now by Fagius, Koopman, on Silbermann organs by various players (IMHO stay away from them. Berlin Classics they are I think), the new stuff from Weinberger also on Silberman organs which is absolutely fabulous, most of Boyers ones but these are actually pretty nice as well.I can recommend the recording by Menissier, Le Poet-Musicien which I think is absolutely great with an amazing version of BWV 572.

Anyway, I will go back to the Kantatas now ...

 

Werner Jacob's Bach

Roger Hecht wrote (September 16, 2004):
I'm interesting in reading opinions of Werner Jacob's recordings of Bach organ works--as a set, not in terms of individual performances.I've been listening to them and have formed some tentative thoughts, but I'm no expert on Bach organ works or organ music itself.

I have a few sets of this music (Chapuis, Alain, Hurford) but beyond the "I know what I like (or don't like)" school, I'm interested in what others think about this set--other than it is supposedly "complete" and possibly then some.

I find it interesting, by the way, that the big EMI reissue set says nothing about Jacob.

Donald Satz wrote (September 17, 2004):
Roger Hecht writes:
< I'm interested in reading opinions of Werner Jacob's recordings of Bach organ works--as a set, not in terms of individual performances. >
I find the set largely a 'hit or miss' affair. Often, Jacob is rather stodgy with his slow tempos and rounded contours. But sometimes he displays enhanced vitality and delivers absolutely transcendent interpretations. Overall, his playing has a 'sweet' quality to it that will appeal to some more than others.

I think the set sells for a little over $100 for the 16 discs. That's a big price tag, although it comes out to less than $10 per disc. The Lionel Rogg set on Harmonia Mundi, less complete than the Jacob, only costs about $50 and is much more rewarding to me. Unfortunately, the Rogg doesn't seem to be in print currently - I'm confident it will re-emerge soon. My next favorite set would be the Herrick on Hyperion that costs almost $200 - a price one could gag on.

Carrow McCarn wrote (September 19, 2004):
Donald Satz writes:
< I find the set largely a 'hit or miss' affair. Often, Jacob is rather stodgy with his slow tempos and rounded contours. But sometimes he displays enhanced vitality and delivers absolutely transcendent interpretations. Overall, his playing has a 'sweet' quality to it that will appeal to some more than others. >
If all the "complete sets" I've heard, Werner Jacob's is my favorite.

His superb legato and his warm and technically secure performances also are recorded on a variety of period instruments, including a couple that Bach played (Hildebrandt organs in Stormthal and Naumburg [before it was
restored and when it still had a non-tracker action]). Many of the recordings were made as a joint venture between EMI and VEB Deutsche Schallplatten, the government owned recording company of the old GDR.

You are right to lament that the CD reissue doesn't tell you anything about Jacob. I think that he is now about 65, and he at least was the organist at the Sebalduskirche in Nuremberg. I haven't seen the new reissue. I hope that EMI provides information about the various pipe organs.

I like the Rogg set, too, but the Jacob is my favorite single complete set.

Roger Hecht wrote (September 22, 2004):
Roger Hecht writes:
<< I'm interested in reading opinions of Werner Jacob's recordings of Bach organ works--as a set, not in terms of individual performances. >>
Donald Satz wrote:
< I find the set largely a 'hit or miss' affair. Often, Jacob is rather stodgy with his slow tempos and rounded contours. But sometimes he displays enhanced vitality and delivers absolutely transcendent interpretations. Overall, his playing has a 'sweet' quality to it that will appeal to some more than others.
I think the set sells for a little over $100 for the 16 discs. That's a big price tag, although it comes out to less than $10 per disc. The
Lionel Rogg set on Harmonia Mundi, less complete than the Jacob, only costs about $50 and is much more rewarding to me. Unfortunately, the Rogg doesn't seem to be in print currently - I'm confident it will re-emerge soon. My next favorite set would be the Herrick on Hyperion that costs almost $200 - a price one could gag on. >
I tend to agree with our findings about the Jacob set, though I can understand why Carrow McCarn likes them so much. It is quite lyrical and legato, but I do find it too rounded, and, at times stodgy. I also agree there are some very good performances here.

I heard the Rogg many years ago and found it rather dry, but this was a very long time ago. I also don't know if it was the first of two sets or if the HM is a reissue. Never checked this out.

The Herrick I didn't not care for in a brief sampling.

I have always liked Michel Chapuis's energy and color, but some of the sets (on LP) lacked bass. I find this a problem mainly in the big works--not a good thing, obviously. Recently, I'm warming up to the Helmut Walcha. I once thought it dull, but am now drawn to his structural integrity and the sound of the organs he uses. For recorded sound and good performances, I like Peter Hurford a lot. The only other sets I know are is Claire Alain and Wolfgang Rübsam (Naxos). From brief samplying, I don't like either very much.

Roger Hecht wrote (September 22, 2004):
Carrow McCarn wrote:
< You are right to lament that the CD reissue doesn't tell you anything about Jacob. I think that he is now about 65, and he at least was the organist at the Sebalduskirche in Nuremberg. I haven't seen the new reissue. I hope that EMI provides information about the various pipe organs. >
Nothing about the organs that I can see.

Donald Satz wrote (September 23, 2004):
Roger Hecht writes:
< The only other sets I know are Clair Alain and Wolfgang Rübsam (Naxos). From brief sampling, I didn't like either very much. >
I very much like the Rübsam. He can be a hell-raiser with his severe contours and powerful playing. I'm not familiar with Alain's cycle, but her Art of Fugue didn't impress me.

 

Rübsam/Philips

Greg Masters wrote (March 10, 2005):
Does anyone know where I can purchase the 16-CD set of Bach's organ works that Rübsam recorded for Philips? I can't seem to find it anywhere.

Any help would be appreciated.

Jay Kauffman wrote (March 10, 2005):
[To Greg Masters] I second that request - the only USA issue I know is a two CD set on Philips.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (March 11, 2005):
[To Greg Masters] Last time I checked, all major vendors were still carrying it (Amazon.com and its German counterpart, Yahoo! Shopping, etc.).

Richard Loeb wrote (March 11, 2005):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] Do you have a URL - I checked both sites and they list the Philips Bach Rübsam as out of stock - Amazon has plenty of the later Rübsam Naxos but they are far different (and worse).

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (March 14, 2005):
[To Richard Loeb] Out of stock does not mean unavailable, however. Oftentimes, they outsource their recordings. For example, the ones I have been getting lately come from FL or CA or MI, not from them directly.

Also, you could order used. Amazon is good about that.

Richard Loeb wrote (March 14, 2005):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] Unfortunately not available in source or outsource (which I have often used myself) - the whole set is not there - I did order the 2 CD hilites which will hold me over till the complete set reappears.

 

Wolfgang Stockmeier

Doctor Crichton wrote (April 18, 2005):
What do we think of him as an organist?

Infact what and who fo we rate as organists and what organs??

BACH question mostly....Obviously..

Anyone?

Great knowledge on Bach organ works is not in my sphere.. However I have always liked it.

Is it a good idea to go for a Wolfgang Stockmeier box set of bach organ music??? 1977?? Or what would we suggest??

Lots about on Ebay... This either means there are newer versions out or did they just make a few too many?

On my list anyway... Quite tempted... for a complete set of Bach organ music myself...

A sensible investment?? Seems to be with a quick look on google??

 

Complete Bach Organ Works

Terence Tegner wrote (April 21, 2005):
Hi all from darkest South Africa

In reply to the Doctor with delusions of simpletoness and your search for the ultimate Bach Organ collection, I can only recommend the set played by Walter Kraft as this is the only set I have enjoyed. I converted the set
from a boxed set of LPs (15 LPs of 215 of Bachs organ works played on 20 different organs in europe.). I haven't seen this offered as a CD set yet but confess that I have not really looked. I will follow the URLs that you suggest later tonight just out of interest.

Doctor Crichton wrote (April 21, 2005):
[To Terence Tegner] That`s a nice compliment I think..I just get very impressed with real professional musicians and people who know their stuff in music..Aty University I was always impressed with the Astro Physicists and the ones naturally good at allmath and the brilliant musicians who knew composers and the classical music landscape inside out.. Both are such large journeys... I have tried to get into both as best I can but I always feel humle in the presence of anyone who truly knows about music has a real professional ear and can play like a trooper!!

That`s what I meant. Any exposure to real musicians and people in the know is a real honour.... I intend to be someone in the know.. So I do appreciate everyone!! Really. I have a few white flecks of hair appearing and y the time I`m all white I want to be really in the know!

Bach`s Flute sonatas arrived this morning Stephen Preston on baroque flute CRD records.. 1997 Double disc.. It`s charming... ids my first reaction.. Only played disc one of 2.. So B-Minor BWV 1030, E-Flat Major BWV 1031 and A Major BWV 1032...

and the word is charming and delightful.

Special interest for me as I have had at least 3 girlfirneds who played the flute.. One who was at The Royal College of Music... and well.. I Like the flute generally...so this is going to be another well played classic of
mine...sounds a kitchen one to me to leave on repeat.. I like my Kitchen a magical place!!

Thanks for the feedback.

P.S. That t-shirt guy has a prelim image.. He still wants a really GOOD picture of Mozart he can add to a t-shirt..i.e. black to print on white.. I see his problem after scouring google images... Not really one that makes Mozart look godlike for a t-shirt.

If anyone has one.He`d like it. You can send it to me if you don`t have the link...200-400 dpi ideal.. ut not necessary.

Thanks all

 

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Recorded Sets of Bach's Complete Organ Works: List | Discussions: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
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