JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH - Margaret Phillips (Organ)

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JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH - Organ Works Vol. VIII - Margaret Phillips (Organ) - 2CD-Set - 802561032823 - Released: April 2012 - Regent REGCD328

CD1 (75:36)

Prelude and Fugue in D major BWV 532
Neumeister Chorales BWV 719, 1090-1092
Trio in D minor BWV 583
Neumeister Chorales BWV 1093-1095
Fantasia in C minor BWV 562
Neumeister Chorales BWV 1096-1097
Fugue in G minor BWV 578
Neumeister Chorales BWV 714, 1098-1100
Fantasia et Imitatio in B minor BWV563
Neumeister Chorales BWV 737, 742, 1101-1103
Prelude in A minor BWV 569

CD2 (76:53)

Prelude and Fugue in A minor BWV 543
Neumeister Chorales BWV 1104-1108
Trio Sonata No. 4 in E minor BWV 528
Neumeister Chorales BWV 1109-1113
Fantasia in G BWV 571
Neumeister Chorales BWV 1114-1117
Trio in C minor BWV 585
Neumeister Chorales BWV 957, 1118-1120
Prelude and Fugue in D minor (Fiddle) BWV 539

As in Vol. 7 of this complete cycle of Johann Sebastian Bach's organ works, organist Margaret Phillips once again delivers steadfast and uncontrived readings of some of his most original and diverse pieces. The resolute and immutable forward momentum of the Prelude and Fugue in D major BWV 532, performed with clarity in mind and with a group of stops who speak as straight as a pin. The contrapuntal beauty of the Trio in D minor BWV 583 exposed by the clever use of well balanced stops, all in the 8' compass. The subtle harmonic refinement of some of the more placid Neumeister Chorales uncovered by the apt use of a single stop. And better yet, the harmonic complexities of the Fantasia in C minor BWV 562 for example, revealed not by the organ going full-bore, but rather by using a well-balanced group of stops that do not drown each other out, and a relaxed tempo but yet dramatic rendition that anticipates the unusual harmonic progressions.

The instrument chosen for this final volume in the series is a wonderful historic pipe organ built in 1727 by the German craftsman Christian Müller, in the Grote Kerk, Leeuwarden, Holland. Its size and scope match the open and clearly defined outlines of Bach's music very well. Compared to many organs of younger vintage, it is small at only 38 stops, of which 23 still speak through their original pipes. But combined with the acoustical space it shares, it can't be beat for clarity, brilliance, and unwavering pitch and mid-range solidity. This organ's character goes hand in hand with Margaret Phillips' temperament, and they assist each other in presenting this music at face value, without the need for extra padding.

And exactly as I pointed out for the previous volume, it should also be noted that this release presents a well balanced program that avoids the usual pitfall of grouping all the Preludes together, or all the incidental pieces together, and instead has them sequenced in a way that prevents ear fatigue. The recorded sound is very natural, and positions you, the listener, at the right distance and perspective from the organ and the space it occupies. Recording engineer Gary Cole has once again managed to capture and reproduce the unadorned sound of a pipe organ in its natural surroundings, and made it a pleasure to listen to. You may already have many different versions of Bach's organ works lining your shelves (Hurford, Guillou, Lagacé, Richter, Alain, Walcha, etc ...), but for a straightforward and honest delivery of the goods, this series on Regent Records is a serious contender.

Jean-Yves Duperron - April 2012