Bach: Complete Organ Works Vol 8

Bach: Complete Organ Works: Vol 8
North German influences
Pieter van Dijk
DMP Records, DVH 140417. 2CDs 81’20+81’00

Recording, or playing, the complete Bach organ works is a milestone in any organist’s life, but the are many issues to consider. These include the choice of organ/s and the programming of individual recitals or CDs. One organist who has negotiated these issues very successfully is Pieter van Dijk, organist of the prestigious St. Laurenskerk in Alkmaar, Professor for organ at the Conservatory of Amsterdam and the Hochschule für Musik und Theater, Hamburg, and the artistic director of Organfestival Holland. His recorded Complete Organ Works has reached Volume 8, which is reviewed here. I understand that there will be two further double CD releases within the next year or so to complete the edition, and subscriptions are offered. I will give a brief outline of some of the earlier CDs, but I think this volume should be of particular interest to organ lovers as it deals with the early North German influences on the young Bach and includes several lesser-known works.

All the recordings have been released in double CD format, each covering a specific topic, a group of pieces, or particular organs, but in well-balanced programmes that go beyond the immediate title. Each CD is about 80′ long, and is made up of well-chosen pieces from the wider Bach repertoire. The first three releases cover the major collections of the Clavier Übung III, Orgelbüchlein and the Leipziger Choräle. Several are, not surprisingly, recorded on van Dijk’s own fabulous Van Hagerbeer/Schnitger organ of St. Laurenskerk in Alkmaar, but others use less well-known instruments such as the Garrels organ in the Nicolaaskerk, Purmerend (Vol 2), the Hinsz organs in the Grote Kerk, Harlingen & the Martinikerk, Bolsward (Vol 6). Volume 4 features two Silbermann organs, the well-known one in the Domkirche, Freiberg, and the much smaller, and lesser-known but equally important Silbermann organ in Ponitz. The programmes for these two CDs are particularly well-chosen, the first, on the French-influenced Freiberg drawing on Bach works with a similar French influence.

Bearing in mind its focus on the North German influence, Volume 8 uses the very appropriate North German instruments of the Flentrop organ in the Katharinenkerk, Hamburg and the historically important Stellwagen organ in the Jakobikerk, Lübeck. As with the previous non-specific programmes, there is a mix of pieces, some appearing in lesser-known versions. The pictured reverse of the CD cover lists the pieces, and they can also be found on the above link.

All the CD pairs include comprehensive and well-written liner notes, with detailed information on the pieces played and the organ specifications and full registration details. Pieter van Dijk’s playing is outstanding, his subtle use of articulation and touch and his very effective choice of registrations are object lessons in organ performance. Although playing for a recording, rather than a live performance, nearly always veers towards the side of safety there are sufficient moments of interpretation interest here, without causing problems with the repeated listening.

You can watch a video of Pieter van Dijk playing Bach’s partita Ach, was soll ich Sünder machen BWV 770 on the Hinsz organ in the Martinikerk, Bolsward, The Netherlands. This is on album 6 of the complete Bach edition.