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A New Angle
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Chorale Prelude BWV623 'Wir danken dir, Herr Jesu Christ' [3:58]
Keyboard Concerto No. 5 in F minor, BWV1065 [10:24]
Partita for solo violin No. 2 in D minor, BWV1004: Chaconne [14:26]
Toccata in D major, BWV912 [11:45]
The Art of Fugue, BWV1080:
Contrapunctus I [3:34]
Contrapunctus V [3:54]
Contrapunctus IX a 4 alla duodecima [3:20]
Italian Concerto, BWV971 [14:41]
Chorale Prelude BWV720 'Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott' [7:38]
Leo van Doesselaar and Erwin Wiersinga (organs)
rec. 2019, Martinikerk Groningen.
Reviewed in SACD stereo.
MDG 9062137-6 SACD [73:54]

The Martinikerk in Groningen has two excellent and historically significant organs, starting with the Arp Schnitger organ that stands on the site of an instrument from 1450. With numerous rebuilds and alterations that include the Schnitger rebuild and enlargement in 1691/92, this organ still has a strong baroque character. The choir organ was built in 1744 by the Belgian Jean-Baptiste Le Picard and originally situated in a Monastery in Nunhem, Limburg. French rule saw the dissolution of the monastery, but the organ was preserved and ended up in Groningen in 1939. The Schnitger organ has a bright and full sound that is contrasted nicely by the more elliptical sounding pipes of the Picard organ with its single manual and limited number of stops.

The programme is basically a set of arrangements or transcriptions of Bach’s music for organ, but it truly is a feast for the ear. The glorious Chorale Prelude BWV623 'Wir danken dir, Herr Jesu Christ' is a perfect opener, played with four hands and two feet in an arrangement by Sybolt de Jong. The Concerto No. 5 in F minor, BWV1065 works superbly on the Schnitger organ, sounding like a solo concerto grosso as the textures expand to give orchestral effect, the solo part being of course a magnificently virtuoso tour de force in its own right. The famous Chaconne from the Partita for solo violin No. 2 in D minor, BWV1004 is relatively understated in effect on the smaller Picard organ, but the build-up is beautifully paced and the detail in this complex work is all present, if diffused by the magnificent acoustic to give the work an added halo of religious extasy.

The Toccata in D major, BWV912 comes straight from Bach’s harpsichord repertoire and receives an animated reading here, with plenty of colourful contrast in its numerous sections. Movements from that ever-intriguing The Art of Fugue, BWV1080 are perfectly suited to the gentle Picard organ, while the Italian Concerto, BWV971 is another relatively straightforward transcription from the harpsichord original and very enjoyable on the Schnitger organ, with a particularly expressive Andante central movement. The programme concludes with a duet version of the majestic Chorale Prelude BWV720 'Ein feste Burg ist unser Gott', both resident organists at the Martinikerk joining forces to create an overwhelming effect.

This is the ideal sort of recording for SACD and organ enthusiasts, with each instrument solidly placed in this large acoustic and the music communicating superbly, but also giving us a tremendous audio ‘kick’ with plenty of brightness and depth. Put it through your best equipment and the sound really opens out, with bags of detail and no shortage of marvellous resonance. Bach, organ and audiophile fans, please form an orderly queue.

Dominy Clements

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