Art of Fugue & Canonic Variations.
Jaroslav Tuma, Giedre
Supraphon SU 3439-2
Jaroslav Tuma is a Czech player of all historical keyboard instruments,
including clavichord. He has a special interest in restoring and recording
historical organs, and a large discography in Supraphon's series Historical
Organs of Bohemia.
He has been fascinated by The Art of Fugue since student days
and has concluded that the organ is the most legitimate medium to express
all its qualities. He decided however that for this particular work, the
organ in Ceske Budejovice built by Slajch at the end of the 20th C. (there
is a confusion about dates in the English translation!) is the only suitable
instrument in Bohemia, because most historical instruments there have limited
range and lack some essential notes in the lower octaves of manuals and pedals.
These performances are notable for clarity and for the listener it is easy
to follow the part writing. It is not made clear whether it is a tracker-action
instrument, but there is a pleasing attack at the beginning of the notes,
which enhances the characterful delineation of the interweaving contrapuntal
Tuma opts to omit any of the suggested completions of the last unfinished
fugue and, instead, follows its breaking off with a chorale, Von deinen
Thron. Two of the fugues, and Contrapunctus XIII & XIV, are for two
keyboards, here using the moveable positive organ in the choir (Giedre
This very satisfying CD is completed with the Canonic Variations on Vom
Himmel hoch (BWV 769), another glory of Bach's last years, submitted
as an annual requirement for retention of membership of a learned society
in Leipzig. This masterwork combines contrapuntal learning with lyrical melodic
writing and is one of Bach's most imaginative organ compositions.
The documentation is unusually complete, with a page of facsimile, a good
photo of the interior of the Church of the Divine Heart, specifications of
both instruments and details of the registrations employed in each of the
29 tracks of the double CD. At Supraphon's reasonable price, it is highly
Peter Grahame Woolf