Categories
Recording

Handel: 8 Great Suites for harpsichord

Asako Ogawa
135:32 (2 CDs in a card triptych)
First Hand Records FHR142

Coming in the wake of Francesco Corti’s recent recording of this repertoire, Ogawa’s CD inevitably invites comparison, and I am pleased to report that her playing stands up very well. While not by any means eschewing flamboyance, Ogawa is more sparing in her displays and concentrates on lucidity of sound and clarity of voice leading, with a subtle use of ornamentation. She is reflective in slower movements and exciting in faster ones like the Courantes and Gigues, while retaining a sense of poise. Occasionally, some stodginess creeps into her use of notes inégales, particularly in the Allemandes. As well as the eight Suites, she includes the Chaconne in G major, HWV 435, where effective registration and a strong sense of momentum keeps the music alive throughout. Climaxes in this and other pieces are built steadily, for instance in the so-called ‘Harmonious Blacksmith’ variations in HWV 430: this builds inexorably to a thrilling ending, with Ogawa giving us an extra repeat of the final section where she metaphorically pulls out all the stops. Her reading of the G minor Suite HWV 432 particularly impressed me. She plays on a harpsichord by Klaus Ahrend 1973, based on a model by Dulken, with a beautifully mellow sound; it is quite closely miked, but with just enough reverberation for beauty of tone and clarity. Ivan Moody manages to cram lots of relevant information into his liner notes. Overall, this recording is a considerable achievement and can be recommended for many gratifying insights.

Noel O’Regan

Categories
Recording

Mozart: Piano Concertos

Academy of Ancient Music, Robert Levin, Bojan Čičić, Laurence Cummings
62:33
AAM AAM042

Many will doubtless recall that among the most exciting projects of the last decades of the 20th century was the recording of complete sets of the Mozart keyboard concertos undertaken by Malcolm Bilson (Archiv) and Robert Levin (L’Oiseau-Lyre). Employing instruments of the period and stylish ornamentation, both cycles were path-breaking in the manner in which they gave us the most historically informed ideas yet of how the piano concertos might have sounded to Mozart’s own audiences. The Bilson cycle was to all intents and purposes completed – though you had to go ‘off-piste’ to get the three very early concertos of K107 – but Levin’s came to a halt around the turn of the century after eight volumes. The death of Christopher Hogwood, the conductor of the series, in 2014 might have set the seal on determining that the cycle would remain incomplete. Now however comes the first of a series of five discs on the AAM’s own label that will complete Levin’s set by 2024.

It is something of an assortment of curiosities on which you will not even hear a note played on the fortepiano! Perhaps most curious of all is the concerto fragment that appears in the music notebook of Mozart’s sister Nannerl. The notebook is home to several of Mozart’s earliest efforts at composition (K1a, b and c) and the proposition made here (by Mozart scholar Cliff Eisen) is that the fragment was composed by Mozart and entered in the notebook by the children’s father Leopold. The orchestral passages are not notated but the music has been reconstructed by Robert Levin. It has a strangely familiar feel to it, which annoyingly I cannot put a name to at present, though the saucy folk-like tune could be that of any number of cheeky songs or comic arias. Like the three concertos of K107, it is played on a two-manual harpsichord built by Alan Gotto of Norwich after c.1770 Silbermann, an instrument that does in fact at times sound disconcertingly like a fortepiano (at least as recorded here).

The three concertos of K107 represent a small step in Mozart’s giant advancement of the keyboard concerto. Dating from 1771 or 72, they are not original works, but arrangements of the keyboard sonatas opus 5 of J C Bach, who had befriended the child Mozart during his London visit some six years earlier. Only the first, a charming work, has three movements, the others just two. All three betray the galant elegance of their original composer, as does the sentimental style of the set of variations that form the second movement of the G-major Concerto (No 2). Like all the music on the CD the concertos are played with an easy fluency and nimble, precise finger-work. There are, however, times when I felt that Levin might have allowed a little more affection into his playing, which does carry more than the odd hint of the dutiful.

For those that haven’t read the notes prior to listening to the disc, another surprise comes with the Piano Concerto No 5, K175 (1773), Mozart’s first original piano concerto, for it is played not on the piano (or fortepiano) but on the organ. Eisen’s argument for doing so is convincing. You’ll have to read the full note to find out why in detail, but in brief it hinges mainly on two facts. Mozart’s lost autograph titled the work ‘per il Clavicembalo’, at the time a generic term for keyboard instruments. Perhaps still more persuasively the keyboard part lacks the dynamic markings expected in music for piano, but not that for organ. Although not mentioned by Eisen the general character of the work might also suggest organ for the original solo instrument, for it is a grandiose D-major concerto with trumpets and timpani. To my mind, it works well enough in the outer movements but the lyrical central Andante (without the drums and trumpets, of course) sounds far more ‘pianistic’ and arouses doubts. I also have a question mark about the instrument used, the organ completed by George England in 1760 for Christ’s Chapel of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift, Dulwich, and restored by William Drake in 2009. I’m no organ expert, but it doesn’t sound remotely like the Austrian organs of this period known to me. Levin’s playing of it is again remarkable for its easy facility, though there are hints of skating over some of the more florid passage work. Lastly, there’s an organ work that there’s no debate about, the final Church or Epistle Sonata, K336. The AAM gives Levin generally tidy support, although the ensemble playing of the strings is variable, the above-mentioned variations of K107/2 being an example of less than perfect ensemble. Overall the disc is an interesting addition to the cycle if not quite of the highest calibre.

Brian Robins

Categories
Recording

ALLA MILANESE

The Gonzaga Band directed by Jamie Savan
74:19
Resonus RES 10314

The Gonzaga Band is small group of acclaimed experts who deliver music-making of extraordinary power, where the whole seems miraculously more than the sum of its parts.

Partly this is because their expertise is forged in bringing exactly this music – music written in the years when Renaissance polyphony was just bursting out of its ecclesiastical shell into a more florid, instrumental-driven freedom of divisions or passaggi as these techniques of ornamenting the four-square polyphonic writing were called – to life. It was this development – along with the development of instrument-making – especially in violin making – that would enable Corelli and Vivaldi and their associates to emerge into what we know as the high Baroque, and Milan was particularly important in the development of the violin and its music in this period.

But partly also it is because their leader, Jamie Savan, researches and prepares music for performance that is not only a pleasure to listen to, but which makes the links between Milan’s past and future as a distinctive player in the extraordinary flowering of the Nuova Musica along the Po valley from Lombardy to the Veneto. Savan’s liner notes are always a model of good practice: the sources are listed, along with the performing pitch (A=465Hz) and the temperament (1/4 comma mean tone); so are the instruments they all play, including the Hauptwerk organ sampled from S. Maria d’Alieto, Izola, Slovenia used by Steven Devine. I would love to hear them play with an organ by Walter Chinaglia based on open wooden principal pipes described in his Duoi organi per Monteverdi, https://www.organa.it/monteverdi/ for details.

Attention to balance and allowing space for sonorities to bloom is second nature to this group, and we should be grateful for a glimpse into such a wide variety of music. There is a good deal of the best-known Milanese composer of the time, Giovanni Paulo Cima, and his Capriccio 8, 1606 (track 12) will give you a good idea of the instrumental sonorities offered here. Particularly interesting to me as examples of how the earlier polyphonic masterworks were being transformed by passaggi are the tracks 6, 11 and 15 where music by Palestrina, Lassus and de Rore is re-presented with divisions: here Mark Caudle’s violone playing in Rognoni’s version of Lassus’ well known Susanne un jour is a star turn, as are Jamie Savan’s cornetto divisions in track 15. Towards the end, we hear two tracks by Caterina Assandra, a novice nun who was clearly a remarkable composer in her own right at a young age.

Faye Newton has a wonderfully clear yet expressive voice, negotiating the passaggi and trills with ease, she manages to convey the varying moods of the music without the aid of those modern singerly conventions like vibrato or unaccountable swelling on weak notes. This means she matches the instruments splendidly: Cima’s Surge propera (track 16) is a motet with echo effects on the cornetto, and Rognoni’s Ave Virgo Benedicta (track 17) lets us hear her unadorned. You would expect a degree of athleticism from the cornetto, but here you can hear it from the bass sackbut too in the skilled hands of Guy Morely (tracks 5 and 18). Oliver Webber whose relaxed technique is so well-suited to this period’s divisions is heard on his own in Canzon ‘la Porcia’ by Antonio Mortaro with divisions by Francesco Rognoni (track 7), where Steven Devine is playing a harpsichord by Colin Booth (1998) based on one by Domenico da Pesaro (Venice, 1533).

The whole CD is a treat, introducing us to a distinctive sound-world which helps us make sense of the rise in instrumental skills which preluded the shift from Canzone to Sonatas and Concerti, marking the distinctive Baroque period both instrumentally and vocally. I commend it wholeheartedly.

David Stancliffe

Categories
Recording

Tears from Babylon

J. S. Bach: Piano Transcriptions
Alexandra Papastefanou
59:54
FHR 141

This is an unlikely CD to come my way, and I would not normally think myself qualified to make any comment on the style and performance of such an unashamedly pianistic collection. But Alexandra Papastefanou is a celebrated Greek pianist and takes her jumping off point from the well-known and popular transcription by Dame Myra Hess of the cantata movement from BWV 147 known as ‘Jesu, joy of man’s desiring’, with which this CD ends.

But Papastefanou’s skill is shown by the opening two tracks – transcriptions of the first two movements of the Trio Sonata for organ BWV 529 – in which she demonstrates not only her technique as a performer, but also as an arranger. The majority of her CD is given to arrangements of cantata movements, but there are also versions of the chorale preludes BWV 711 and 653. BVW 35.vi comes off well where the instrumental obligato part dovetails with the alto vocal line in a way that is reminiscent of Bach’s own arrangement of BWV 6.iii as the fifth of the Schübler Chorales for organ. It was nice to hear a version of the Chorale in BWV 22.iv that formed another of the older favourite transcriptions along with ‘Jesu, joy of man’s desiring’ that sat on my childhood piano.

If you like piano transcriptions of Bach’s music – and many listeners to Radio 3’s ‘Bach before Seven’ seem to – then you will enjoy this collection.

David Stancliffe

Categories
Recording

A. Scarlatti: Cantate da camera

Lucile Richardot mezzosoprano, Philippe Grisvard, harpsichord
69:58
Audax Records ADX11206

Given that Alessandro Scarlatti wrote some 500 chamber cantatas, it is not surprising that recordings of them can frequently claim to be premieres. No fewer than four of the five included on the present CD are identified as such; I’m in no hurry to attempt verification or otherwise. The cantatas are set off by interspersed keyboard works, in particular two Toccatas (in A minor and G minor) that in keeping with the typical 17th-century character of such works are both virtuoso pieces that include quasi-improvisatory arpeggio passages. They are played with great dexterity by Philippe Grisvard on a modern instrument inspired by 18th-century Italian instruments.

Grisvard, whose notes are otherwise intelligent and helpful, opens by implying that opera in Rome in the second half of the 17th century was essentially an underground operation due to papal disapproval. It’s a curious misnomer and one that certainly does not, as he suggests, explain the popularity of the chamber cantata, which served the function of providing entertainment for the sophisticated audiences that gathered in the palace salons of sacred and secular princes. Almost entirely concerned with the Roman Arcadian literary movement that played such an important role in operatic reform around the turn of the century, the chamber cantata was predominantly the milieu of shepherds and shepherdesses and the complications of their love lives. The treatment ranged from tragedy to humour, but texts frequently alluded to allegory or metaphor, being written by such leading Roman figures as Cardinal Benedetto Pamphilj, one-time patron of both Scarlatti and Handel. One of his cantatas, ‘Sarei troppo felice’, figures in the present collection and is particularly interesting as an example of the extreme flexibility the form enjoyed. While most cantatas were cast as a simple alternation of plain recitative and aria, or the reverse, here the opening is an exquisitely set two-line rumination, ‘I would be only too happy, If I were master of my thoughts’, that becomes a linking ritornello for a series of philosophical musings that enjoy the freedom to move with ease between recitative and aria. The effect is extraordinarily modern, rather akin to a stream of consciousness dialogue.

Far from simply purveying the simple innocence of the pastoral life, the best of the chamber cantata repertoire is a demanding one for singers. I have lost count of the number of recordings of the genre that fail because singers treat it as an extension of opera, even as miniature operas. In fact, its demands are quite different, requiring an intimate approach in which text and music can be directly conveyed in a nuanced manner to an audience that is in close proximity to the performers.  The French mezzo Lucile Richardot and her accompanist well understand this. She is the possessor of what is intrinsically an unusually dark-hued mezzo, more contralto in timbre. Yet the voice has great range and colour, upper notes having the capability to surprise, sometimes bursting into brightness like the sun emerging from a darkened sky. Her chest notes are exceptional. Understandably she has particularly made her mark in French opera, yet recently she recorded a quite sensational Penelope in Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, a powerful assumption that drew full value from the all-important text. That attention to text is what makes these performances so completely engaging and idiomatic, along with a subtle and never overuse of rubato and portamento. Richardot also captures so well the humour, allegory and ambivalence of ‘La lezione di musica’, a cantata that delivers an unexpectedly painful conclusion.

There is so much here that is admirable – more than admirable – that it seems churlish to enter a caveat, but Richardot’s ornamentation is not as convincing or as efficiently articulated as it could be. Grisvard makes the point that the performers felt da capo ornamentation needed to be kept to a minimum in these works, which is arguable, particularly in the case of ‘Là dove a Mergellina’, Scarlatti’s last cantata, which is a more bravura work. But embellishments in general are not as fluently turned as is desirable. But that is a relatively small flaw in what from nearly all aspects is an exceptional recording of outstanding works.

Brian Robins

Categories
Recording

Beethoven: Piano Sonatas, op. 10

Daniel  Tong
61:31
Resonus RES 10307

Daniel Tong here plays a copy of an Anton Walter fortepiano of 1805 built by the prolific Paul McNulty. In his informative note, Tong makes a number of points regarding the advantages of playing Beethoven on a fortepiano, correctly observing that it brings both the ‘player and the listener closer to Beethoven’s sound world’. Strangely, among other well-made points, he doesn’t mention what to me is always one of the principal advantages of playing the music of this period on a fine fortepiano, which this example unarguably is. That is the deliberate contrasts of tonal colour in the various registers of the instrument, one of the key differences to the modern grand piano, which aims for homogeneity across the spectrum. This seems to me particularly on display in the opus 10 sonatas, where one senses time and again that Beethoven is deliberately exploiting the contrasting sonorities of the instrument. This exploitation is especially potent in such imitative passages between treble and bass (much exploited in these sonatas) as the coda in the Presto of the D-major Sonata.

The three sonatas that constitute opus 10 were published in 1798 with a dedication to Countess von Browne-Camus, the wife of one of Beethoven’s wealthy patrons, one of several dedications of his publications to both count and countess. As Tong notes, the sonatas follow a pattern that applies to almost all of Beethoven’s publications in threes, aiming at works of considerable diversity and one work in a minor key (No 1 in C minor). The one thing all three have in common is their evident intent to provide above all music for Beethoven the virtuoso pianist who wowed the aristocratic salons of Vienna during the 1790s. This is particularly the case with the D-major Sonata, the only one of the three with four rather than three movements and at once the most ambitious and the most technically demanding for the pianist. Tong meets these demands admirably, articulating the virtuoso passagework of the Rondo finale with nimble fingers and great clarity.  He is also capable of extracting poetry from the music where required, as for example in the final bars of the Largo e mesto of the same sonata, where the dynamics are exquisitely controlled to bring the movement to a close of perfectly attained peace. Neither is wit absent from Tong’s playing of a movement like the mostly playful Allegro of the F-major Sonata, where Beethoven uniquely in this set asks for the repeat of the development and recapitulation.

Overall these are admirable performances, enhanced by a recording that presents the instrument itself in the best light, its lovely bell-like treble admirably set off by a characterful middle register and richly resonant bass notes.        

Brian Robins 

Categories
Recording

Byrd: Pavans & Galliards, Variations & Grounds

Daniel-Ben Pienaar (piano)
154:59 (2 CDs)
Avie AV2574

This is an intriguing double album: 39 of Byrd’s 101 surviving works for keyboard, composed for the contemporary harpsichord, but played here on the modern piano. The contents include all ten of the great Nevell pavans and galliards alongside the Quadran and Salisbury pavans and associated galliards, the three titled Grounds, his eight most famous settings of popular songs of the day, and three works which also qualify as grounds: The bells, Qui passe and, perhaps the only singular inclusion, the Hornpipe. Several of these pieces have been recorded by other pianists, the greatest overlaps occurring on the albums by Glenn Gould and Kit Armstrong (Sony B8725413722 and DG 486 0583 respectively; my review of the latter was published on 25 August 2021), but not forgetting Joanna MacGregor’s take on Hugh Ashton’s ground (Sound Circus SC007) and more recently Karim Said’s Qui passe (Rubicon RCD1014). Pienaar eschews the fantasias and voluntaries, plus (understandably) the works based around plainsongs which, with their many sustained notes, Byrd obviously intended (or at least preferred) to be played on the organ. So, where do these versions sit among the other substantial recordings of Byrd’s keyboard music played on the piano? What is there to be said about Pienaar’s interpretations of the pieces? And what do Pienaar’s interpretations contribute to the debate about performing these works on the modern piano, the emergence of which was still at least a century away in the future?

Playing this repertory on the piano raises a host of issues. Given the stratospheric status and quality of Byrd’s keyboard music, it is essential that it is accessible to as many people as possible. Nowadays there is a plethora of instruments based on keyboards, both traditional and electronic. To date, commercial recordings, broadcasts and public performances have been given either on the harpsichord and related instruments (hereinafter simply “harpsichord”), or the organ, or the piano. The last thing any sensitive reviewer would want to do would be to discourage performances on the piano, or to patronize pianists over their choice of instrument. While not quite an elephant in a room, the fact remains however that the music was composed for the harpsichord and/or organ, and it is at least arguable that had the piano been available to Byrd, he would have composed his pieces idiomatically to that instrument. And that matter of idiom – that a work composed for the harpsichord might not sit so well upon a different albeit similar keyboard instrument – can be a stumbling block, whether this is because the piano has a different mechanism from the harpsichord, or because a different technique is required for playing either instrument, or because it simply does not sound right to the listener. Pienaar’s recording throws up all these issues (and more – how long have you got?), which is unsurprising given the quantity and quality of the chosen music.

That chosen music is all, within the context of Byrd’s oeuvre for keyboard, familiar apart from the impressive Hornpipe of which there is only one other commercial recording – on the harpsichord – currently available (Friederike Chylek, Oehms OC1702). So, to look at that aspect from a critical perspective, we are being invited to listen to nearly forty of Byrd’s best-known pieces being played on the anachronistic piano when they are all easily accessible on recordings where they are played on the authentic harpsichord (noting that such recordings sometimes use harpsichords the designs of which postdate Byrd’s compositions). Or … we are being invited to listen to a large swathe of Byrd’s keyboard repertory played on an anachronistic but similar instrument which requires no alteration to a single note that Byrd has written, and which might, in the right hands, offer new insights into the structure and meaning of this incomparable corpus of works.

Pienaar’s performances are unapologetically those of a pianist, not of someone trying to make his instrument sound like a harpsichord. This is good in that it links Byrd with later composers for the piano such as Chopin for whom counterpoint is an important structural element, besides the rhetorical use of chordal passages (another penchant of Byrd’s, also noticeable in his vocal works, e.g. famously the A flat chord near the end of Infelix ego). This means that Pienaar can sound a bit precious in some of the pavans, but his essay in the accompanying booklet is an assertive justification for using the piano against those who show “moral outrage” at such a decision. Indeed, his rendition of Walsingham which is timed at an extraordinarily fast 6’39” (all other current versions whether on harpsichord or piano are over eight minutes, in one case nine) seems almost to be an aggressive demonstration of the capabilities of the modern piano and an exhibition of the technical capabilities of the pianist. And while this is one of Byrd’s most intense works (see for instance Bradley Brookshire’s article “’Bare ruin’d quires, where late the sweet birds sang’: covert speech in William Byrd’s ‘Walsingham’ variations”, in Walsingham in literature and culture from the Middle Ages to modernity, edited by Dominic Janes and Gary Waller, Farnham, 2010, pp. 199-216), Pienaar seems to be invoking the tune’s modest status as a popular song and, through his performance, provoking thoughts of Byrd’s passionate reaction to this place of mediaeval pilgrimage and to its destruction as a Catholic shrine by Protestants in 1538. Yet elsewhere his interpretation of O mistress mine, I must brings out all the light and sheer beauty in Byrd’s setting, making it sing in such a way as to persuade listeners that this music might actually have been composed for the piano.

So we have a choice. We can purchase the recording for what it is. We can purchase it as an experiment or a novel experience and enjoy finding out which performances work and which do not. Or we can decide that Tudor keyboard music on the piano is not for us. For this reviewer (and I did indeed buy a copy before I was invited to review it!), among some tracks that are dances that don’t (not all the Nevell pavans and galliards “take off”), or where Byrd’s momentum and polyphony are clogged by too many spread chords (ditto), or where something other than Byrd’s self-explanatory genius is being exhibited (virtuosity in John come kiss me now, another fastest version on disc), there are many performances that are decorous, thought-provoking or challenging (for instance Qui passe, The bells, and those three titled Grounds, plus the mighty Quadran pavan and galliard) and have made that purchase worthwhile. When I first encountered this repertory I had no access to a harpsichord and played through Byrd’s entire keyboard output on the family’s piano, so please, any pianists reading this review, please do play and perform Byrd’s keyboard music on your pianos, especially in this quatercentenary year.

Richard Turbet

Categories
News

Podcasts from Paris

Fans of the French Baroque are in for a real treat if they visit https://expodcast.cmbv.fr/en – six podcasts have been produced by the Centre de Musique Baroque Versailles. To a rich musical backdrop, all sorts of information is shared (either in English or French) from the golden era of Louis XIV to the dawn of the Revolution. These are highly recommended!

Brian Clark

Categories
Recording

Handel: Organ concertos op. 4 & op. 7

Martin Haselböck (op. 4), Jeremy Joseph (op. 7), Orchester Wiener Akademie
164:00
Alpha Classics Alpha 742

In 2014 Martin Haselböck and his Orchester Wiener Akademie put themselves on the musical map with their Resound Beethoven project, which involved performing and recording the complete Beethoven symphonies on period instruments in Viennese venues where they had been premiered or performed in the composer’s lifetime. As the programme note to this 2-CD boxed set candidly admits, this project is very different in that the magnificent acoustic of the Goldener Saal of the Musikverein provides these organ concertos by Handel with a very different context from the composer’s own performances. While the Musikverein’s 2011 Rieger organ provides many of the stops available on a Baroque organ, again the context is very different, while the forces fielded by the Akademie are much smaller than those available to Handel for his performances, often in the wider context of an oratorio or an opera. And yet, these are utterly mesmerising performances, musically intelligent, technically superb, and wonderfully effervescent. While the Resound Beethoven project reminded us that the acoustic of the original venues is a factor in any attempt to reconstruct how music originally sounded, it is possible to produce an utterly convincing and engaging performance just by calling upon superlative musicians and placing them one of the finest acoustics in the world. If just occasionally I felt that an organ stop belonged in a later period, these are thoroughly enjoyable accounts with Haselböck himself at the keyboard for the op 4 concerti and Jeremy Joseph taking over for the op 7. For a generally more convincing period sound, the excellent 1996 set by Paul Nicholson on Hyperion with Roy Goodman and the Brandenburg Consort which uses an organ Handel himself is known to have played, and which gives us the op 4 no 6 on harp as originally intended as well as supplying the Alleluia chorus conclusion to op 4 no 4 (mentioned in the booklet notes for present recording but not performed) is probably for you, but I did very much enjoy these Viennese accounts.

D. James Ross

Categories
Recording

Pachelbel: Organ Works volume 2

Matthew Owens
76:20
resonus RES10303

When I reviewed Vol. 1 of Matthew Owens’ excellent Pachelbel Organ Works a year ago, I wondered whether all the subsequent discs were to be recorded on the Queen’s College Frobenius, where he had been organ scholar, pondering that Pachelbel’s diverse compositions might be better served by a richer, more South German tone. And here is Vol. 2, as rich a mix as Vol. 1, and recorded on the colourful 2015 Bernard Aubertin organ in a private house in East Sussex last November! This is the organ that Stephen Farr used for the Resonus recording of Bach’s early Chorale Partitas, and here they make an equally good technical job of capturing both the carefully voiced organ and Owens’ neat articulation and phrasing.

Every track has its registration noted carefully in the liner notes, to be read against the specification of the instrument on the page opposite, which is a great delight to this reviewer at least. The Aubertin organ (Aubertin trained in Alsace and works in the Jura, and his organs have a blend of French and lower German/Austrian quality to their voicing) in Fairwarp has that rich and colourful quality that suits the middle-south German style of writing so well. Some of the shorter numbers, like the variations on the Chorale Partita Christus, der ist mein Leben, are played on single ranks: one on a 4’ flute only and we also hear the robust Voix Humaine paired with the 4’ flute on the Grand Orgue. The 22 Fugues on the Magnificat Primi Toni also give us a chance to experience the wonderful variety and subtle phrasing of this delicately voiced instrument – where flute and principal ranks can be combined together to shade the tone – as well as alerting us to the fact that Pachelbel worked in both Lutheran and Catholic traditions.

Owens’ playing is elegant, fluent and well articulated. There is a lot of Pachelbel to come – the last complete Pachelbel organ works, recorded two decades ago by Antoine Bouchard on a 1964 Casavant organ in Quebec, ran to 11 CDs – but the series promises well. I look forward to the next volume keenly: what organ will Owens choose for the next tranche?

David Stancliffe