The Organ

16 CD Set - JS Bach: The Complete Organ Music

Picture of CD cover Played by Christopher Herrick on various Metzler Organs of Switzerland
HYPERION CDS44121/36 (16 CDs)

Throughout his recording career with Hyperion I have been struck by Christopher Herrick's consistent technical resource, stylistic flair and unflagging musicianship. It is with that in mind that I viewed the rounding up of his Bach Organ works cycle over sixteen discs that the label have recently released, much, I am sure, to the chagrin of those who built up their collection of it from single releases. Newcomers to the recordings will find it less expensive to buy in this format which will also make it more appealing to those who may have one or two, perhaps none, of Herrick's outstanding series, or who would like to have a companion for another complete set of Bach already positioned in pride of place in their collection.

This box set has the discs organised in cardboard sleeves printed tastefully with the programme of each. All the information usually found within the individual booklets can now be found collectively in one thick book, containing English and German translations, accompanying the set. The information contains much about Bach, the organs used, with their individual specifications, and plenty of photographs to enlighten the listener.

Seven different organs from the Swiss firm of Metzler carry the weight of the project, which is where Herrick's consistency begins. Other complete Bach collections use many and varied makes and locations in the hope of keeping our interest alive. Herrick's journey brings us a sound that has enough variety to show the Metzler's ability to bear a responsible approach to Bach despite their modern construction.

The organs used and locations are:
Pfarrkirche St Nikolaus, Bremgarten (1988)
Stadtkirche, Zofingen (1983 and Choir organ 1980)
Jesuitenkirche, Lucerne (1982)
Stadtkirche St Martin, Rheinfelden (1992)
Pfarrkirche St Peter und Paul, Villmergen (1978)
Pfarrkirche St Michael, Kaisten (1975)

Here is a lovely family of instruments that provide a bedrock of timbres and sonorities for Herrick's stunning tribute.

The Trio Sonatas on the first disc are a welcoming initiation to Herrick's commonsense pace and line, the six works having a youthful and profane, yet noble outlook, the complexities unfolding with transparency and boldness of thought. The Bremgarten organ is bright and cheerful and the registrations work well in conveying the Italianate structure of the sonatas, though they are weighted with German cautiousness.

The 'Great' Fantasia and Fugue in G minor is treated to the meatier sound of the Jesuitenkirche organ in Lucerne, an apt move to convey the powerful thought behind each of this genre of composition. The Pfarrkirche St Peter und Paul, Villmergen proves perfect in expressing Bach's enthusiasm for the Italian concerto form, here are the Vivaldi transcriptions spelt out upon an organ where the balance between tutti and solo sections is hewn from Herrick's fabulous control of each, imbuing the works with freshness and lucidity, delicate in the slow movements, dynamic in the fast.

I could think of no better way of acquainting yourself with these magnificent instruments whose range and sound define Bach in many satisfying ways, Christopher Herrick confident in their ability to deliver the best results, and surely they do. DA