SIETZE DE VRIES IN HAMBURG - Organ of St Katharinen Kirche - Sietze de Vries (Organ) - 0639767628204 - Released: June 2015 - JSB / Fugue State Records JSBH011214

1} Jacob Praetorius - Was kann uns kommen an für Not
2} Johann Adam Reincken - Choralphantasia 'An Wasserflüssen Babylon'
3} Johann Sebastian Bach - Von Gott will ich nicht lassen
4} Johann Sebastian Bach - Fantasia super Komm heiliger Geist
5} Sietze de Vries - Improvisatie: Partita Psalm 86 (6 verses)

At first glance, it would be a common error for most people to take a pass on this new organ collection recording released by Fugue State Records. After all, based on the list of works, it doesn't seem to feature anything we have not heard before and looks like a typical run-of-the-mill Baroque music collection except for the Improvisatie: Partita Psalm 86 by Dutch organist/composer Sietze de Vries (b 1973). The year of his birth leads to the assumption that his concept of improvisation is most likely modern, atonal, and therefore would sound completely out of step with the balance of the music on this CD. Initial impressions and preformed opinions should not be trusted until proven correct.

First of all, there is plenty of history behind the pipe organ of the St. Katharine Church in Hamburg. Both Scheidemann and Reincken were organists there, and it seems that this was one of the instruments most admired by Johann Sebastian Bach. In fact he performed an influential concert there in 1720. Its history goes all the way back to 1400, from when its been constantly rebuilt. The latest reconstruction was done as recently as 2013 by the Flentrop firm, and includes at least 500 of the original pipes from before the church was bombed in 1943. What I admire the most about the Flentrop effort, is that they've completely preserved this instrument's period authenticity, and produced an organ that delivers a pure and true sound, perfectly suited to the music on this disc.

As far as the set of improvisations by Sietze de Vries is concerned, I believe it's the best work on this CD and well worth the price of admission all by itself. I'll even go so far as to say that it even stands shoulder to shoulder with the music of Bach. The whole piece, which is over 33 minutes long, completely adheres to the Baroque standards in form, structure and invention. This organist's specialty is the art of improvisation and he even gives master classes on the subject. His mastery of improvisation makes everything sound natural and pre-composed, and even seems to take into account (for this piece anyway) the organ's various colors and stop combinations to great effect. This is the first recording of this beautiful pipe organ since its 2013 face-lift, and well worth having as part of any comprehensive organ music collection.

Jean-Yves Duperron - August 2015