Bach in Montecassino

Luca Guglielmi (1749 Ramasco organ, San Nicolao, Alice Castello)
69:12
VIVAT 106
BWV537/1, 668a, 672-675, 681, 683, 687, 713, 733, 753, 802-805, 846/2, 870b, 903a & 904

There is an interesting back-story to this CD of Bach organ music played on a one-manual North Italian organ. The pieces come from Bach pieces collected by two 18th century scholars, Friedrich Wilhelm Rust and Padre Martini. Rust visited the Abbey of Montecassino (south-east of Rome) and played the organ there (in 1766), and presented the Abbey with several Bach organ manuscripts. The Abbey continued to build a strong musical reputation over the years, until it was destroyed in 1944. Martini was an avid collector of music and a renowned teacher. Burney reckoned that his vast library amounted to around 17,000 volumes.

This CD is recorded on the 1749 organ in Alice Castello, just north of Turin. It was built by Michele Ramasco, with addition in the early 19th century. It has 26 stops on one manual (with one pedal stop), several of which are divided into bass and treble sections. Although it is typical Italian style, it manages to sound remarkably German on this recording.

Luca Guglielmi’s programme explores the works collected by Rust and Martini, including some lesser-known Bach pieces. He opens with the rarely performed Rust version of the Fantasia Chromatica (BWV 903a) paired with the Fuga sopra il Magnificat. The pairing making a nice contrast between the flamboyant and austere Bach. The rest of the programme includes the four Duets and seven chorale preludes from the Clavierübung III, and early versions of pieces from the Well-tempered Clavier. The CD finishes with the A minor Fantasia and Fugue (BWV 904) usually placed amongst the harpsichord works, but working very well on the organ.

Guglielmi is an accomplished player, with a nice sense of rhythm, pulse and articulation.

Andrew Benson-Wilson