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Gerhard Weinberger (Organ)

Bach Organ Works from Weinberger, Volume 2

R-2

Bach: Organ Works Vol. 2

Prelude & Fugue in G major, BWV 541 [7:21]
Prelude & Fugue in C minor, BWV 546 [11:55]
Leipzig Chorales (Part 1):
Chorale Prelude (Fantasia super) Komm, Heiliger Geist, BWV 651 [5:59]
Chorale Prelude Komm, heiliger Geist (I), BWV 652 [10:20]
Chorale Prelude An Wasserflüssen Babylon (I), BWV 653 [6:10]
Chorale Prelude Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele (I), BWV 654 [8:42]
Chorale Prelude (Trio super) Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend (I), BWV 655 [3:42]
Chorale Prelude O Lamm Gottes unschuldig (II), BWV 656 [8:57]
Chorale Prelude Nun danket alle Gott, BWV 657 [5:02]
Chorale Prelude Von Gott will ich nicht lassen, BWV 658 [4:30]

Gerhard Weinberger (Organ) [Gottfried Silbermann, 1735]

CPO

Jul 1998

CD / TT: 72:38

Recorded at St. Petri Church, Freiberg, Germany.
Buy this album at: Amazon.com

Donald Satz wrote (November 16, 2001):
I reviewed Gerhard Weinberger's Volume 1 of his complete traversal of Bach's works for organ a few weeks ago. I did not recommend purchase of the disc; most of the music was from chorales, and Weinberger's austere approach was not a good match. In Volume 2, the majority of the music again consists of chorales; this time, it's the first eight Leipzig Chorales.

As it happens, Weinberger gives generally wonderful performances of the first eight Leipzig Chorales. He's much more amenable to serving the this music than he is in Volume 1. Of the eight chorales, three of Weinberger's readings are the best I know, and the remainder are uniformly idiomatic and rewarding. The Silbermann Organ is a fantastic instrument of strength, color, and beauty; Weinberger plays it as if he was born to inherit it. I find the sound of this historical organ even better than the ones used by William Porter on his Loft Recordings discs.

Alas, Weinberger isn't anything to write home about in his performances of the two Preludes & Fugues. He falls back into the problem which often surfaces in Volume 1 - trouble finding the music's poetry. Even more, he tends to not give his best concerning the power and majesty required of these two strong works.

Here are the details:

Fantasia super Komm, Heilger Geist, BWV 651 - An explosion of music highlighted by a running 16th figure set against the sustaining pedal of great strength. The most exciting versions I know which burst into my psyche and provide exceptional detailing of the 16th figure come from Lionel Rogg on Harmonia Mundi and Peter Hurford on Decca. Although Weinberger can not match either the detail or explosion from these two versions, he does deliver a highly taut and sharp account of rhythmic variety which is very rewarding. If not for Rogg and Hurford, Weinberger would be my favored interpretation.

Komm, Heilger Geist, BWV 652 - Essentially the meditative side of the same chorale as BWV 651, Weinberger gives a superb performance. Unlike most other versions, he finds every crevice and edge in the music and makes them the cornerstone of his interpretation. I find it highly distinctive with wonderful registrations; Weinberger is getting the best from his magnificent instrument.

An Wasserflussen Babylon, BWV 653 - A lament from the exiled Israel, the cantus firmus is in the tenor voice. Weinberger does well within an intimate sarabande framework but he can't match the poignancy or intimacy of the Peter Sykes performance on Raven.

Schmucke dich, o liebe Seele, BWV 654 - Having the cantus firmus in the soprano voice, this chorale arrangement also has a smooth sarabande rhythm. What lifts it above BWV 653 is music as beautiful as any Bach wrote. Weinberger, like Peter Hurford, takes an intimate approach to the work with excellent results; however, Hurford does capture more of the beauty of the music. Ultimately, this type of work does not play into Weinberger's strengths of muscle and angularity.

Trio super, Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend', BWV 655 - It's time for some exuberance and good cheer as the day opens up. Weinberger is in the right spirit with a fine reading which does not match the swirling Lionel Rogg or trumpet-heralding Bine Katrine Bryndorf.

O Lamm Gottes, unschulding, BWV 656 - Approaches run from the majesty and intensity of Koopman to the excitement of Hurford. Koopman's is my favorite version and remains so. Weinberger plays the piece very well and expressively. However, he is rather soft-toned in the first verse, and that's not generally part of his style. He does rev it up in the second verse and continues in excellent fashion with an effective angularity and great detail.

Nun danket alle Gott, BWV 657 - A majestic and glorious tribute to God, this piece is tailor-made for Weinberger. His contours are always sharp, his slowish pace insures intricate detail, his strength is undeniable, and he's in total command of a highly distinctive organ. The sound is supreme as is the performance which adds up to the best version I know.

Von Gott will ich nicht lassen, BWV 658 - A poignant piece with a throbbing rhythm, Weinberger gives another wonderful performance. His detailing of voices is exceptional, the throbbing carries on strongly, and I know of no other version which provides such an effectively subtle pathos and sense of inevitability.

Prelude & Fugue in C minor, BWV 546 - Fueled by the opening ritornello, this Prelude is the epitome of turbulent majesty which seems to keep reaching toward a vision. I've been listening to Anthony Newman's fast and interesting version on a Vox Box 2-CD reissue. He creates a great deal of nervous energy and always tries to be jagged and different. It's not the best version around but definitely warrants listening. In the Fugue, Newman takes a very understated approach which is less grave than most; his registrations are distinctive, and tenderness is a prevalent trait which is unusual for Newman.

Christopher Herrick takes me to the top of the mountain. Of relatively slow pacing, his reading of the Prelude is totally majestic, well-balanced as to severity, and finds every nugget of nuance and beauty. Herrick projects strongly in the Fugue and provides a gorgeous and dignified reading with a rock-solid bass foundation. Concerning the Fugue, I also love the Koopman performance on Novalis which is even slower than Herrick's and much more severe. Koopman sucks up all the available energy, turns it into peak austerity, and spits it out with tremendous force and angularity.

The above sets the stage for Weinberger's BWV 546. Adjectives such as turbulent, majestic, forceful, severe, and angular would seem a great match for Weinberger. Although that's on target, Weinberger isn't very impressive in this work. He flexes his muscles a lot in the Prelude, but most of it is of a side-ways delivery; there's little 'vision' in his reading. In the Fugue, Weinberger doesn't possess the power of Koopman and is way down on the scale concerning nuance and beauty compared to Herrick. Frankly, I'm disappointed.

Prelude & Fugue in G major, BWV 541 - Disappointment also creeps in with Weinberger's G major. Right from the start of the Prelude, Weinberger never is streaking or soaring toward enlightenment as he gets bogged down in more side-ways maneuvers. Listen to Rogg who explodes with energy and joy, and Weinberger sounds rather stale. This also applies to their respective Fugues where Rogg closes in on heaven and Weinberger is lucky to reach a low-lying cloud.

Don's Conclusions: I was veering toward an essential recommendation for Weinberger's Volume 2 until the Preludes & Fugues arrived. Although that blows 'essential' out of the water, I still give the disc a strong recommendation. The first eight Leipzig Choare as exceptional as the best alternative versions, and the Silbermann Organ of St. Petri in Freiberg is outstanding.

Owing to the fact that I have acquired all the discs in Weinberger's Bach organ works cycle, I'm quite relieved to find Volume 2 of high quality. Here's hoping that Volume 3 provides additional treasures.

 

Gerhard Weinberger: Short Biography | Recordings of Non-Vocal & Vocal Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Bach Organ Works from Weinberger, Vol. 1 | Bach Organ Works from Weinberger, Vol. 2 | Bach Organ Works from Weinberger, Vol. 3 | Bach Organ Works from Weinberger, Vol. 4 | Bach Organ Works from Weinberger, Vol. 5 | Bach Organ Works from Weinberger, Vol. 6 | Gerhard Weinberger's Bach Organ Series, Vol. 15

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Last update: żOctober 2, 2007 ż10:12:47