SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews

BACH: 6 Partitas – Hansjörg Albrecht, organ – Oehms Classics

Exploding colors and swirling sonics that would make Stokowski smile.

Published on September 21, 2012

BACH: 6 Partitas, BWV 825-830 – Hansjörg Albrecht, organ – Oehms Classics multichannel SACD OC 684 (2 Discs), 79:22, 78:34 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:

By the time Bach composed his six partitas, not long after assuming the position at the Thomaskirche in Leipzig, he was a master at the assimilation of the French and Italian styles, bringing each to new heights and freely mixing the genres when he felt the need. These were busy years for the new Thomascantor, who took over the Collegium Musicum that Telemann had started, battled valiantly with obstinate and non-musical authorities, and managed to create three complete cantata cycles, a Christmas version of the Magnificat, the St. Matthew Passion and two versions of the St. John Passion. Once a year between 1726 and 1731 he put together a partita for solo keyboard, an exquisite example of the dance suite and a major statement in terms of complexity and length.

But they were still dance-based and have not been as popular as some of Bach’s other many keyboard works. The master even had them printed himself, considering them his “Opus 1”, the first part of his Clavier-Übung. To this day they remain pillars of the keyboard literature. But do they work on organ?

This organ is a whopper, a 1999 instrument at Krefeld-Hüls, perfectly suited to Albrecht’s idiomatic arrangements. Make no mistake though; these are not “historically informed” performances. We don’t know how Bach, who loved the organ above all instruments, would have played even those pieces that he wrote directly for the instrument. I imagine it was with a lot more color and freedom than we are wont to imagine today. And that is why I think this recital so successful. Albrecht uses color like a Jackson Pollock drip painting, liberally, without boundaries, and definitely thinking outside the box. The sounds he creates are simply stunning in their clashing harmonies and brilliant tones, and I for one did not tire of these discs even once while listening repeatedly and in sequence. They are not standard partita fare, and I could never recommend them as such—go to Gould for that. But for sheer musical exuberance, this is hard to beat. The SACD sound captures it all in spectacular fashion, and this will serve me well in future as a class-A demonstration disc for SACD surround sound.

—Steven Ritter




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