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Good interpretation - with reservations
on 15 June 2012
I have four LPs of Bach's organ works plus five LPs of Buxtehude's (complete) organ works played by Michel Chapuis. I had considered buying this set of CDs but - since I wished to purchase simultaneously a complete set of Bach's cantatas - I thought it wise to listen first to the two LPs that I had of Bach's German Organ Mass. (It is a reasonable bet that the CDs are transcriptions from tapes that were used to produce the LPs that I have.) The listening confirmed my impression from the memory of hearing all nine LPs: Chapuis' interpretations tend to have an organ tone that leans a little too much towards the "flute" tone as opposed to the "diapason" tone so common in the UK.
If you like the "flute-like" sound then this is the set for you. I tend to gravitate towards the interpretations by Walcha and Rogg with their less "flute-like", and thus to me more "organ like", sound.
One other complaint I have is that some pieces are played too fast on the LPs. Excessive playing speed is a minus as far as I am concerned because one should be able - or at least almost able - to hear every note in fast passages. I once went to the Royal Festival Hall with a friend to hear a recital by Ralph Downes. Part of it consisted of a trio sonata by Bach but it was played so fast that my friend would have been hardly able to follow the notes. Actually I did not enjoy it much because of the excessive playing speed and I was familiar with the piece! Excessive playing speed can obscure the structure of the music despite the greatest virtuosity of the performer.
This CD collection is worth getting but since I have Bach's complete organ works by Rogg (most of the old LP set & a newer CD set), Walcha, Kraft, Jacob, Claire-Alain I am reluctant to add this one. I do have what I feel is the poorest interpretation that I ever heard - the one played by Rubsam (a Naxos set) and I just never bother to listen to it at all these days because I really dislike the interpretation.