The Organ

Ronald Frost: Bach's Organ Mass and Klavierbng Part 3

St Ann's Church, Manchester
DRDO 190 (2CDs)

The term 'klavierbung' (keyboard practice) implies practice on one of several keyboard instruments - organ, harpsichord, clavichord or hammer-klavier (piano). In those days, practice on the organ would have involved the hiring of one or more organ blowers, and even in W.T. Best's day, practice involved arranging for a boilerman to raise steam for the blowing engine at least three hours in advance. The harpsichord and clavichord were, therefore, the instruments of choice for practice in the home and, being so quiet, the clavichord never upset the neighbours.

For many years now, Ronald Frost has played this Organ Mass on the first three days of Holy Week at St Ann's Church, a lovely historic church in the city centre of Manchester where he has been organist since 1978, and where he has so far given 760 recitals.

For the content of these two CDs I can do no better than give Ronald's own liner notes: "The Organ Mass consists of ten chorale preludes preceded by an introductory prelude (BWV 552a) and concluding with a fugue (BWV 552b) popularly known as the 'St Ann Fugue' because the similarity of the subject to the hymn tune of that name, though it is unlikely that the hymn tune was known to Bach. Each chorale is presented in two, sometimes three versions. One of these versions is elaborate and set for organ with peals, the other (or other two) use manuals only. On CD 2 the latter are played on the organ and then on the clavichord." The clavichord used here was built for Frost by Alex Temple of Manchester and is based on a Silbermann clavichord of 1770. It certainly makes a beautiful sound.

The organ in St Ann's began with Glynn and Parker's 2-manual instrument of 1730, situated in the West Gallery. In 1887 Alexander Young moved it to the North East Gallery, and in 1955 Jardines did a major overhaul. In 1996 George Sixsmith and Son completely rebuilt it as a 4-manual instrument, with Frost as the consultant. The full specification of the original Glyn and Parker organ has yet to be found, so if any reader can supply details, Ronald Frost will be delighted to hear from you.

It need hardly be said that the man who essentially designed the instrument as it stands today knows precisely how it should be played and I have no hesitation in commending this double CD. DRC