Bach: Organ Masterworks Vol. V

Kei Koito (Volckland organ 1732/37, Cruciskirche, Erfurt)
70:53
Claves 50-1503

Kei Koito plays this volume on the remarkable organ by Franciscus Volckland in Erfurt’s Cruciskirche. Built between 1732 and 1737, this instrument by one of Thuringia’s most noted builders is remarkable in several respects: first there are an unusual number of manual 8’ ranks – five on the Hauptwerk: Principal, Viola di Gamba, Gemshorn, Bordun and Traversiere, and three on the Brustwerke. There are only two reeds – a Vox Humana of considerable character and power, and a medium-powered but clear pedal Posaune. The lack of a manual chorus reed is amply compensated for by a rich Sesquialtera, and the Hauptwerk Mixtur is in the 16’ register and contains a third. The pedal has four 16’ ranks, with an 8’ and 4’ octave as its only upperwork, so she plays this mixture of preludes, fugues, trios, works classed as Anhang and transcriptions from cantatas and violin sonatas making frequent use of the pedal coupler and the large variety of string and flute tones – the Fughetta BWV 902 is particularly delightful on the 4’ Nachthorn on the Brustwerk.

It is impossible to elaborate the details of this interesting organ, so well suited to these pieces – some entirely unknown to me; but as well as a full specification of the organ, detailed registrations are given in the accompanying liner notes. The organ plays at a’=466 Hz and is tuned to Kirnberger II; it was restored by Alexander Schuke of Potsdam between 1999 and 2003, and some photographs and a description of the work he did would have been welcome. Jakob Adlung says in his 1768 treatise that Der Klang dieser Orgel ist unvergleichlich – ‘the sound of this organ is incomparable’, and it still is.

Kei Koito plays with clarity and finesse, using period fingerings and even lets us hear the Glockenspiel – as the Cymbelstern is called – sparingly in In dulci jubilo. An old friend of our family – a retired Major with all that the suggested stereotype implies – said of the blind organist Helmut Walcha (whose recordings on historic north-German instruments issued by DGG in the 1950s were a landmark in changing tastes) after hearing a recital of his on the then new organ in the Royal Festival Hall: ‘Absolutely spiffing; no smudge at all’; and I can do no better than echo his remark. This is a fascinating CD of some unfamiliar music played excellently on a remarkably suitable organ, and deserves to be known and enjoyed widely. This may be close to the aural picture that Bach had in mind than much of the Buxtehude north-German sound of the Schnitger organs that we often hear used for recording his organ music.

David Stancliffe