Bach - Organ Works VII - Margaret Phillips

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JOHANN SEBASTIAN BACH - Organ Works Vol. VII - Margaret Phillips (Organ) - 2CD-Set - 802561030829 - Released: December 2011 - Regent REGCD308

CD1 (72:55)

Prelude & Fugue in G major BWV 541
Partite diverse sopra O Gott, du frommer Gott BWV 767
Concerto in C (after Vivaldi) BWV 594
Chorale preludes Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend' BWV 726, BWV 749 and BWV 709
Prelude & Fugue in A minor BWV 551
Chorale preludes Durch Adam's Fall ist ganz verderbt BWV 705
Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier BWV 706
Ich hab' mein' Sach' Gott heimgestellt BWV 708, 708a
Ich hab' mein' Sach' Gott heimgestellt BWV 707
Trio in G major, BWV 1027a
Chorale preludes Meine Seele erhebt den Herren: Fuga sopra il Magnificat BWV 733
Wir Christenleut' hab'n jetzund Freud BWV 710
Fugue in C minor BWV 575

St Jacobikirche, Sangerhausen - Organ by Zacharias Hildebrandt, 1728

CD2 (73:02)

Prelude & Fugue in C minor BWV 546
Chorale preludes Herr Jesu Christ, mein's Lebens Licht BWV 750
Nun ruhen alle Wälder BWV 756, Wir glauben all' an einen Gott, Schöpfer BWV 765
O Lamm Gottes, unschuldig BWV 1085
Prelude in G major BWV 568
Fugue in G BWV 576
Chorale preludes Vater unser im Himmelreich BWV 762
O Vater, allmächtiger Gott BWV 758
Jesu, der du meine Seele BWV 752
Fantasia in C major BWV 570
Prelude in C major BWV 943
Fugue in C major BWV 946
Concerto in E flat BWV 597
Prelude in C major BWV 567
Fugue in G major BWV 581
Fugue in D major BWV 580
Kleines harmonisches Labyrinth BWV 591
Passacaglia in C minor BWV 582

Petrikirche Freiberg - Organ by Gottfried Silbermann, 1735

The first thing I instantly noticed about organist Margaret Phillips' playing, is that it is free of arbitrary mannerisms and devoid of empty artifice. It is, on the other hand, constantly alive and always musical. She avoids the usual temptation to overplay the more hefty Preludes or the Passacaglia in C minor, and instead reveals their strength through musical momentum. Her choice of registration from piece to piece is always well judged, and sometimes pleasantly surprising as in some of her stop combinations in the Partite diverse sopra O Gott, du frommer Gott BWV 767. Her playing is at its best during the more subdued works like the Kleines harmonisches Labyrinth BWV 591 where each note is given equal consequence. After all, the first two volumes of her Bach series of recordings on Regent Records have been recognized as 'some of the finest performances of Bach chorale preludes on disc'.

The booklet notes by Margaret Phillips herself state: "Of all the instruments used in the series, the two heard here have the closest connection with Bach himself. He knew both organ builders personally, and was friendly with Zacharias Hildebrandt, who lived in Leipzig from 1734. His relationship with Gottfried Silbermann was not so cordial (despite Silbermann being C.P.E. Bach's godfather) - Bach is said to have called his temperament 'barbaric' and 'intolerable to a good ear'. Besides, Silbermann's 25-note pedalboards preclude the majority of Bach's organ works being played as written."

Nonetheless, these two historical instruments are excellent vehicles for the works featured on this Volume 7 of the series. They both project a clear sonic image that helps to define the intricate counterpoint lines at all times, and it is nice to hear the Silbermann's mechanical action during the quieter pieces.

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.

Jean-Yves Duperron - January 2012