Bach: Famous Organ Works

Joseph Kelemen (Christoph Treutmann organ, Klosterkirche Grauhof)
70:22
BWV534, 546, 562, 575, 582, 595, 664, 717, 736 & 1080

CDs with titles like “Famous Organ Works” strike chill into a reviewer’s heart, but this CD from the reputable OEHMS label is a fine and varied recording, designed to display the qualities of this remarkably well preserved Christoff Treutmann organ in the Klosterkirche Grauhof dating from 1734-7 – his largest and only surviving instrument, relatively recently (1989-1992) conserved by the Hillebrand brothers, who tonally only had to re-make the mixtures.

For the music, the programme centres on major works in minor keys – the Prelude and Fugue in C minor BWV 546 contrasted with BWV 717, 562 and 595; the Prelude and Fugue in F minor BWV 534, Contrapunctus I from Die Kunst der Fuge  accompanied by “Valet will ich dir geben” BWV 736, the trio on “Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr’” BWV 664 and the little Fuge BWV 575 before finishing with the Passacaglia BWV 582.

Notable in these performances on this instrument is Keleman’s ability to produce clarity – even in fugal writing – with a full manual chorus based on a 16’ principal and a splendid pedal including 16’ & 8’ reeds, which are wonderfully prompt-speaking. Astonishingly creative in his performance of the Passacaglia and Fugue – played without any change in the registration – are his minute variations of tempo and weight conveyed by very subtle articulation over an unchanging pedal of just the 16’ & 8’ reeds, with a 4’ principal. The smaller scale works allow us the opportunity to hear the well-balanced combinations of ranks, and to assist the listener’s appreciation, there is not only a full specification but the detailed registration of each piece. Kelemen’s notes (in German and English) on the organ as well as on his choice of music draw attention to the tierce rank in mixtures on two of the manuals, and prepare us for the major/minor ambivalence when we hear open fifths played – as at the start of the C minor Fantasia in the organ’s unequal temperament.

This is a well-produced and valuable CD, giving us insight on how – on an appropriately constructed instrument – well thought-out registrations as well as beautifully prepared playing can bring sensitive variety to works we so often hear with large numbers of fussy changes in registration, presumably designed to divert us from being bored by dull, loud modern organs.

David Stancliffe