J. S. Bach: Complete Organ Music – Volume 4

Stefano Molardi Thielemann organ, Gräfenheim
310:07 (4CDs)
Brilliant Classics 95005

For Volume 4 of Bach’s organ music (four CDs recorded in just four days) for Brilliant Classics’ complete Bach, Stefano Molardi uses the Johann Christoph Thielemann organ in the Dreifaltigkeitskirche in Gräfenheim in Thuringia, which was built between 1728 and 1731. A Hauptwerk of 10 speaking stops has a 16’ Quintatön (heard in the C minor fugue BWV549 CD1.1), two x 8’, two x 4’, a Quinta, a 2’, a Tertia, a six-rank Mixtur and an 8’ Trombetta, used to remarkable effect to suggest zamponi in the Pastorella BWV590. The Brustwerk also has a 16’ Quintatön, Gedackts at 8’ and 4’, Principals at 4’, 2’, 1’, a Quinta at 1.1/3’ and four-rank Mixtur. The Pedal has Subbaß and Violonbaß at 16’, and Octavenbaß at 8’ and a Posaunenbaß, together with a coupler to the Hauptwerk. The tone of the manual choruses is remarkably similar (as you can hear in the Concerto in C BWV595 – CD 1.23) and, although the pedal is not independent, the three flues are capable of clarity and variety in some of the choral preludes (e. g. BWVAnh.55 – CD 3.3). There is both Cymbelstern and Glockenspiel (heard in BWV701 & 703 – CD 2.21 & 23). BWV574 reveals the pretty stringy tone of the 8’ Principal on the HW. This instrument makes a good contrast with the organ by Franciscus Volckland in Erfurt’s Cruciskirche, used by Kei Koito on Bach: Organ Masterworks Vol. V – Claves 50-1503, which was built between 1732 and 1737, and has a far greater variety of tone colour.

Although the informative liner notes, mostly by Molardi, include the specification of the organ and say that it is in a modified meantone temperament, playing at G#= 447 Hz, (hence he records the C major version of the Prelude and Fugue in E BWV566a transposed perhaps by Krebs himself, and you can hear the fine resolution to the C minor Fantazia BWV562 – CD 1.24) you have to go to www.brilliantclassics.com for the registration of each piece, and negotiating their website is far from simple.

Most of the shorter pieces recorded on this organ are from the Neumeister Collection, of which some 36 are attributed to JSB and thought to have been composed between 1703 and 1707, when Bach was in Arnstadt. In addition to chorale preludes of various kinds, there are two Chorale Partitas, a number of Preludes and Fugues, and some Fantasias and other short pieces. The set includes the BWV565 Toccata and Fugue in D minor, played without histrionics and with the considerable clarity that this powerful organ in a modest acoustic offers, the F minor Prelude and Fugue BWV534, where Molardi doesn’t shy away from using the manual reed in the fugue à la française, and the great Passacaglia in C minor (BWV582) at the end of CD 4. The performances are good workaday versions without extremes of registration or tempi – just what you need for the purposes of study or reference. If you want to get a feel for his style of playing and articulation and how this modest-sized but surprisingly full organ sounds under Molardi’s playing try the Fugue on the Magnificat BWV733 – CD 3.29.

David Stancliffe