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Claudia Dumschat (Organ)

“A Baroque Organ Trilogy”

1

Bach-Buxtehude-Bruhns - The Three B's - Selected Organ Works

Johann Sebastian Bach:
Nun komm der Heiden Heiland, BWV 659
Prelude & Fugue in E minor, BWV 548
Prelude & Fugue in G major, BWV 541
Passacaglia & Fugue in C minor, BWV 582

Dietrich Buxtehude:
Prelude & Fugue in F sharp minor, BuxWV 146
Nun komm der Heiden Heiland, BuxWV 211

Nicolaus Bruhns:
Preludium in G major
Nun komm der Heiden Heiland

Claudia Dumschat (Organ; von Beckerath Organ of St. Michael's Church, New York)

Pro Organo

Sep 1994

TT: 67:50

Donald Satz wrote (October 24, 2001):
The chronological line of music runs like this: Matthais Weckmann and Heinrich Scheidemann studied with Jan Pieterzoon Sweelinck, Buxtehude likely studied with both Weckmann and Scheidemann, Bruhns studied with Buxtehude, and Bach walked countless miles to Lubeck to hear the music of Buxtehude. The basic point is that none of these composers wrote in a vacumn; each was aware of what came before in the great Germanic organ tradition. Of course, Bach and Buxtehude need no introduction. Nicolaus Bruhns, however, enjoys a very slight reputation. He's usually one of those composers who has a work or two on a disc which covers a particular theme, and that's how he is treated on this disc for review. In style, he was very similar to Buxtehude and considered to be an expert protegee of the great composer; I have great affection for the organ works of Bruhns and he need take no backseat on this disc.

The organist, Claudia Dumschat, is based in Manhattan and secured her Bachelor, Masters, and Doctorate in Musical Arts from the Manhattan School of Music. Her teachers have included Frederick Swann, John Walker, and Dennis Keene. Dumschat currently performs in the U.S. and Europe as well as serving as Musical Director for two Manhattan Churches and founding/directing the 100th Street Chorale. At the time of the recording, I'd say that she was a young woman in her 20's.

Young though she may be, Ms. Dumschat is a wonderful Baroque performing artist. She misses none of the beauty of any of the eight works she performs, and her emotional depth and breadth are very impressive. When strength and power are called for, Dumschat fully delivers in resounding fashion. Another great attribute is her command of swirling rhythms which is so important for organ works; Dumschat conveys a mesmorizing quality reminiscent of Lionel Rogg.

The sound of the von Beckerath Organ is exceptional; it's rich, well delineates the individual lines, and is flat-out gorgeous. At the same time, it is a powerful instrument which Dumschat takes full advantage of with outstanding results.

My sole reservation is that Dumschat has an occasional penchant for rounding off phrases in the the more powerful works; I would have preferred a little more 'bite' at times. But you can't have everything. If Dumschat had the 'bite' down pat, this disc would be the find of the century. As it is, I consider the recording an essential element in the library of baroque organ enthusiasts.

Some details are below:

Bach's Chorale BWV 659 - This piece is one of the eighteen Leipzig Chorales. I should note that the cd program incorrectly lists this as BWV 654; that is certainly one sloppy error which evaded the proof-readers. Ms. Dumschat has some fantastic competition including Peter Hurford on Decca and Bine Katirne Bryndorf on Hanssler. The text involves a new awakening, and although Bach's music is quite serious, there is an essential life-affirming quality which Hurford and Bryndorf fully capture. I particularly like Bryndorf's strong bass underpinning and inexorable march to resolution. Dumschat is just as rewarding with a reading which also possesses intense sadness and urgency; the contrasts are very effective. Her performance is about the most gorgeous I've heard on record.

Bach's Prelude & Fugue in E minor, BWV 548 - My standard for the E minor comes from Christopher Herrick on Hyperion; his blend of power and lyricism is mighty impressive, and he is surprisingly bold in the Prelude. Herrick's Fugue starts with an attractively eerie introduction and continues along the powerful and mysterious side. In effect, Herrick provides the usual advantages he conveys and also eschews his tendency to play with too heavy a legato. Dumschat is not as bold in her Prelude as Herrick, but her upper voices are more encompassing and macabre. In the Fugue, she has a little penchant to round off phrases. Overall, I still favor Herrick, but Dumschat is a close rival.

Bach's Prelude & Fugue in G major, BWV 541 - Another impressive performance from Dumschat. She explodes with vitality in the Prelude, and displays much strength in the Fugue. However, I remain partial to Lionel Rogg for BWV 541; his detail in the Fugue is significantly more pronounced than with Dumschat. She again sometimes rounds off phrases which has the effect of lessening the Fugue's bite.

Bach's Passacaglia & Fugue in C minor, BWV 582 - This work needs much muscle which Dumschat fully delivers. However, E. Power Biggs remains my favored version for its greater determination and momentum that is conveyed by a more pronounced bass line. I should point out that Dumschat's reading, excepting for the Biggs, is as fine as any other version I've heard.

Buxtehude's Prelude & Fugue in F sharp minor, BuxWV 146 – Essentially a Toccata, this five section work is loaded with diversity. The first section is 'free', starts with a swirling flourish, and ends in a ceremonial tribute. Rene Saorgin on Harmonia Mundi is sharper than Dumschat, but her ceremonial passages are fuller and more uplifting.

The next two sections are fugues, and I find it very interesting how Saorgin and Dumschat interpret each fugue and convey variety between them. There is an inherent difference between them in that the second fugue is the faster; beyond that, the performer calls the shots. Saorgin uses a lighter texture in the second fugue; that's his primary basis for differentiation. With Dumschat, the textural differences are not as pronouned; she provides a much slower first fugue of stature and then speeds up greatly for the second fugue.

The fourth section allows the performer significant improvisatory freedom. Saorgin takes the strong route at all times; Dumschat begins with a mystical and subdued approach which enhances the contrasts within the section. The last section is imitative and takes us back to the swirling rhythms of the first section.

Overall, I prefer Dumschat for this memorable and diverse Buxtehude creation, because she provides greater contrast and emotional breadth than Saorgin. Also, she handles the swirling rhythms in a hypnotic fashion.

Buxtehude's Chorale Prelude BuxWV 211 - Buxtehude's chorale setting uses the same text as Bach's BWV 659. The music is exquisitely sad and elegant with subtle shades of light. Dumschat's reading is as lovely and intense as the excellent ones from Rene Saorgin and Luc Beausejour for Analekta fleurs de lys. She is slower than these two alternative versions with a more pronouned chorale melody which increases poignancy. Also, her foundation is rock-solid. I might as well give the edge to Dumschat.

The Two Bruhns Works - Just the other day, I reviewed a Loft Recordings disc devoted to Bruhns and Hanff; William Porter has the honors on a historical Swedish organ, and the two works on the Dumschat disc are also on Porter's. I concluded that both the works and the two performers are exceptional; renewed listening does not alter my views. Porter is more angular, while Dumschat provides greater momentum; each is a wonderful advocate for a composer who is too little known.

Don's Conclusion: I have had the pleasure of listening to some terrific Baroque organ disc in recent weeks, and Dumschat's offering is as good as any of them. When the music, the sound, the program, and the performer are all superb, the result must be an urgent recommendation.

A couple of weeks ago, I reviewed a Bach organ disc on Pro Organo performed by Nicholas White. This Dumschat r, also on Pro Organo, is light-years ahead of the White disc. Buy it now! Pro Organo can be found on a few sales sites such as CDNOW although far less than all issues are in the inventory; their discs are also available direct from the company on the internet. Pro Organo's screens are very friendly, ordering is a breeze, and shipping time is short. You can't ask for more.

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Last update: ýMay 2, 2003 ý07:47:40