ESSENTIAL RECORDINGS
DIETERICH BUXTEHUDE - COMPLETE ORGAN WORKS


DIETERICH BUXTEHUDE - COMPLETE ORGAN WORKS, VOL. 1 - CHRISTOPHER HERRICK (Organist) - 034571176666 - Hyperion CDA67666

Here we have a first disc in a new series started in early 2008 by Hyperion Records. The organist is Christopher Herrick who already has Bach's complete works under his belt for the same label. Mr. Herrick has hit the nail on the head with this disc. These are good solid performances of some of the most interesting pieces by Buxtehude. The registrations are imaginative and not always predictable. Tempi are sometimes slower than other performers available but well chosen when you give the performance a chance. I particularly appreciate some works being played in a manner that evokes careful thought as though they are being extemporized. It is a subtle thing but I find it enjoyable and more engaging to listen to. Recording quality does not disappoint. We get a good sense of the acoustical space and a bit of mechanical action from time to time. Very realistic.

In any organ recording the performer and the instrument should be on an equal footing. I say this because if you are going through the trouble to put something to record you better get it right. The instrument is a very important part of the mix. The organ of Helsingor Cathedral was built in 1969 and enlarged in 2005. This is obviously not a period instrument. And most definitely not a bad thing either. We have an instrument that contains all the familiar sounds the grand old man would recognize over 53 stops. We have well made labial pipes, strong but not biting mixtures that are there to add clarity and power, not eliminate rodents, and reeds to inspire and shake, rattle and roll. I like them!! The reeds on the great and pedal are appropriately scaled where one must take the lead there is ample power available. A good example is the last track BuxWV 151 Praeludium in A major. Near the end at bar 123 the theme of the fugue must be repeated in the pedals against the background of not quite full organ.

Simply said it works without being overbearing. Then we have track 11 BuxWV 157 Toccata in F major. If you have taken the time to check the organ's specifications this is the one you are waiting for. Christopher has a real big grin on his face during this one. Overbearing to the max for a few bars. It will bring a smile to anyone's face. It's the way it should be played - loud and proud! A 32' Contrabasun makes it's first entrance at bars 7-10. I had to check this one out on the spectrum analyzer. Sure enough there are healthy doses of 16 hertz low pedal C available here at the opening. Sub-woofer exercises to be sure.

To sum it up I am keeping it. That statement coming from a guy who has 5 complete sets of Buxtehude's organ music and who has owned or listened to at least 5 more sets. It is on a firm footing to compete with the series on Loft by Davidsson and Brydorf on Dacapo. Both contain some very impressive recordings both sonically and artistically and as a whole are very even in their quality. This latest offering by Herrick will be a series that I will closely follow and enjoy. Buy it, you will like it!

Mark Kravchenko