Author Topic: J.S. Bach on the Organ  (Read 285801 times)

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Offline Mr. Minnow

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Re: J.S. Bach on the Organ
« Reply #2440 on: May 27, 2017, 05:08:27 PM »
A question for those who have Koopman's set: I just noticed that several Amazon reviews complain about a lack of clarity of individual voices. Is there any truth in this? To be fair, other reviews claim the sound is excellent. Clarity of each voice is obviously important in the more densely contrapuntal works so it would be useful to hear what others think about this before I pull the trigger on Koopman's set.

Offline bioluminescentsquid

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Re: J.S. Bach on the Organ
« Reply #2441 on: May 27, 2017, 11:18:38 PM »
A question for those who have Koopman's set: I just noticed that several Amazon reviews complain about a lack of clarity of individual voices. Is there any truth in this? To be fair, other reviews claim the sound is excellent. Clarity of each voice is obviously important in the more densely contrapuntal works so it would be useful to hear what others think about this before I pull the trigger on Koopman's set.

I never thought that was a problem. Sure, Koopman is notorious for high speeds and lots of ornamentation in resonant rooms on full plenums, a seemingly surefire recipe for muddied contrapuntal lines. But he somehow pulls it off - that is, most of the time.

Case in point: the fugue of BWV 564, played on the Schnitger organ in Hamburg, a yuuge Baroque organ in a large, resonant room, on a breakneck speed with a 16' plenum. You hear chords more than counterpoint (that's a characteristic of this fugue anyways), but the overall effect is joyous, magnificent, and beautiful. It's probably my favorite version of the fugue, and came as a shock when I first heard it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCMR9As5gs0

I think he exemplifies the understanding that Bach's music is (gasp) not all about displaying counterpoint - it's also about rhetoric and affekt. Counterpoint here is a means, not the end. So even if he's no Walcha when it comes to highlighting the counterpoint, he excels in the overall effect of the piece, if that's what you tend to listen for. You won't think that the lines are too blurred or anything unless you insist on hearing them with absolute clarity in a room that's dry as dust - but then, there's a reason why we don't build organs in dead rooms.
(although there are some central German organs that Bach knew well in very dry-sounding churches, such as the Trost in Altenberg)

(Surprise: he also plays the trio sonatas on the Hamburg organ, sometimes with full plenum, with quite good results)

Of course, if you're all for hearing the counterpoint, go for e.g. Walcha, Foccroulle, Weinberger etc., who have much cleaner lines.
Koopman's more for the main overall effect.

But try it out for yourself. I think the fugues in here (potentially along parts of the CU III/Orgelbüchlein) is as "muddy" as it gets. See if you can take it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6D1zlB9hY8U
Lots of parts of the set is on youtube, so you can try before you buy.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9Zcl8lKOgc

Offline Mandryka

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Re: J.S. Bach on the Organ
« Reply #2442 on: May 28, 2017, 02:31:22 AM »
This (2nd) Walcha set isn't just Alkmaar, but also the Silbermann Organ of the St.-Pierre-le-Jeune in Strasbourg.
The Alkmaar pieces were recorded earlier (1959-1963). Strasbourg sounds better, but Alkmaar has got the more expressive organ IMO.

Ah yes the 564 fugue has good sound, and indeed some surprising registrations.
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Offline Mr. Minnow

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Re: J.S. Bach on the Organ
« Reply #2443 on: May 28, 2017, 03:33:49 PM »
I never thought that was a problem. Sure, Koopman is notorious for high speeds and lots of ornamentation in resonant rooms on full plenums, a seemingly surefire recipe for muddied contrapuntal lines. But he somehow pulls it off - that is, most of the time.

Case in point: the fugue of BWV 564, played on the Schnitger organ in Hamburg, a yuuge Baroque organ in a large, resonant room, on a breakneck speed with a 16' plenum. You hear chords more than counterpoint (that's a characteristic of this fugue anyways), but the overall effect is joyous, magnificent, and beautiful. It's probably my favorite version of the fugue, and came as a shock when I first heard it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HCMR9As5gs0

I think he exemplifies the understanding that Bach's music is (gasp) not all about displaying counterpoint - it's also about rhetoric and affekt. Counterpoint here is a means, not the end. So even if he's no Walcha when it comes to highlighting the counterpoint, he excels in the overall effect of the piece, if that's what you tend to listen for. You won't think that the lines are too blurred or anything unless you insist on hearing them with absolute clarity in a room that's dry as dust - but then, there's a reason why we don't build organs in dead rooms.
(although there are some central German organs that Bach knew well in very dry-sounding churches, such as the Trost in Altenberg)

(Surprise: he also plays the trio sonatas on the Hamburg organ, sometimes with full plenum, with quite good results)

Of course, if you're all for hearing the counterpoint, go for e.g. Walcha, Foccroulle, Weinberger etc., who have much cleaner lines.
Koopman's more for the main overall effect.

But try it out for yourself. I think the fugues in here (potentially along parts of the CU III/Orgelbüchlein) is as "muddy" as it gets. See if you can take it.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6D1zlB9hY8U
Lots of parts of the set is on youtube, so you can try before you buy.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V9Zcl8lKOgc

Thanks for the reply. I just dipped into the fugues on the YT link and the clarity didn't sound too bad at all. Maybe a little less distinct in the last fugue, but still, not what those Amazon reviews suggested.

When I read those reviews I remembered listening to some samples from a Brilliant Classics reissue of some old performances (as in from around the early 70s) of Renaissance polyphony which were riddled with a really heavy vibrato. You can imagine what that did to the clarity of each line - it really did sound like a lumpen mess and about as far as you can get from performances by ensembles such as Cappella Pratensis, Stimmwerck etc.. I wondered if Koopman's Bach might be like that but if the clarity on that YT link is as "bad" as it gets then it should be fine.   

Offline Forever Electoral College

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Re: J.S. Bach on the Organ
« Reply #2444 on: August 05, 2017, 07:25:18 PM »
What do folks think of this?


I have been listnening this for a few weeks, and I like it. He does not have a great dexterity, and the recording sound is just OK. But there is something I like. I like his selection as well.

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