Bach: The Trio Sonatas BWV525-530

David Newsholme (the organ of Trinity College, Cambridge)
93:34 – 2 CDs
Opus Arte OA CD9037D

There is some elegant, but a trifle mannered, playing on these CDs – plural because there are two of them, totalling 93 minutes. Most players fit the six trios onto one CD – Christopher Herrick in 70 minutes, John Butt in 75, Robert Quinney in 79 and an intriguing instrumental version by Tempesta di Mare in 73. This tells you that David Newsholme’s new recording is substantially slower than others, and sometimes feels not just mannered – especially BWV 526 – but ponderous.

For in spite of being recorded on the fine Metzler in Trinity College, Cambridge, the recorded sound doesn’t have the clarity and bite of either Christopher Herrick’s on a Swiss Metzler, still less Robert Quinney’s fluent and winsome performance on the much smaller Frobenius in Queen’s College, Oxford. Newsholme doesn’t feel as much a part of his instrument as the others, and it is simply not nearly as well recorded. There is insufficient clarity, with the right hand often overbalancing the left and the pedal sometimes indistinct, and this is where Quinney’s search for the right sized, beautifully-voiced, instrument pays such dividends. The liner notes for both Newsholme and Quinney give the specifications of the organs, but neither give the actual registration of the movements, which Herrick does. I’m sure Newsholme could have done better if the recording engineers had been able to give him the clarity and directness you need for these works to sing.

Some movements of these trios – wonderful exercises in compact contrapuntal writing – have instrumental origins. So some make very convincing instrumental versions, as the relatively recent version from Tempesta di Mare on CHANdos 0803, with well-argued transpositions and a variety of instrumentation, shows on a bright, well-recorded CD with well-judged tempi.

David Stancliffe