Organ Music before Bach

Organ Music before Bach
Kei Koito.
1736 Johann Jakob Hör organ, Pfarrkirche St. Katharina,Wolfegg, Germany
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi – Sony Music 8843040912. 78’37

Pachelbel Toccata in D Minor, Ciacona in D Minor, Fantasia in D Major (ex E-Flat Major), Vom Himmel hoch, da komm’ ich her, Toccata in G Minor, Ciacona in G Minor (ex F Minor), Fantasia in C Major, Toccata in C Major, Prelude in E Minor, Fugue in E Minor; Muffat Toccata prima, Ciacona in G Major, Toccata decimal; Fischer Ricercar pro Festis Pentecostalibus, Chaconne in F Major, Rigaudon & Rigaudon double, Passacaglia in D Minor; Kerll Passcaglia in D Minor;  Froberger Ricercar in D Minor, FbWV 411, Canzon in G Major, FbWV 305, Meditation faist sur ma Mort future laquelle se joue lentement avec discretion, FbWV 611a

Despite the all-encompassing title of this CD, the focus is on German organ music before Bach and, more specifically, South German and Austrian music. The opening piece is by Pachelbel, an organist composer raised in the strict Lutheran tradition.  But the Italian influence is immediately apparent. Like so many other German organists of the period, culminating in Bach, Pachelbel was part of a musical succession that traced its musical roots back to Frescobaldi. His pupil, Froberger, was instrumental in spreading his style throughout Europe, with Catholic Vienna being the focus of much of this musical interchange. Muffat was a pupil of Lully in Paris as well as Corelli in Rome and produced a synthesis of French and Italian styles, as represented by two of his majestic Toccatas and a gentle Ciacona.

The organ is in the 1280px-Wolfegg_Pfarrkirche_Orgeltypical South German Counter-Reformation style – Wolfegg is close to the famous organ in Weingarten.  It has few reeds, and gentle flue work with a range of colourful 8’ stops including, in this case, a Viola, Viola da Gamba, Salicional and a Quintatön alongside the usual Principal and Coppel stops. These colourful stops were designed to be used in various combinations with each other, one example being Pachelbel’s durezze style Fantasia (track 4) which combines the Viola and Viola da Gamba to produce a delightfully breathy opening transient to the notes. To these two st2010 juni 077ops are added the Salicional and Coppel in the middle part of Froberger’s Canzon V (track 17).  The only registration that didn’t work for me was the wide-spaced combination of Coppel 8’ and Quint 1½’ in the second section of track 18.  The organ is tuned in a meantone temperament, which entailed the transposition of a couple of the pieces into more usable keys.  The organ specification and registrations can be found at http://www.kei-koito.com/wp-content/uploads/Registrations-Wolfegg-Sony.pdf .  Programme notes are at http://www.kei-koito.com/wp-content/uploads/Sony-anglais.pdf.

Kei Koito plays with an understanding of period performance and a good sense of touch and articulation.  She adds several musical interventions of her own, but always in appropriate style, and lists her historic influences in the programme notes.  The inter-changeability of much keyboard music of this period is demonstrated in Froberger’s Meditation faist sur ma Mort future laquelle se joue lentement avec discretion (‘Meditation on my future death – to be played slowly and with discretion’) which sounds very effective on the organ, rather than the harpsichord or lute. There is far less silent time than usual between the tracks. I don’t know if this is deliberate, but it does allow the music to flow from piece to piece in a rather attractive manner.

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