J.S. Bach

Recommended (or not) Recordings

Organ Works Vol. 1

Main Performer
or Conductor:
Peter Hurford
Individual Works:Preludes & Fugues
Toccatas & Fugues (include Toccata and Fugue in D Minor, BWV 565)
Fantasias & Fugues
Passacaglia & Fugue in C Minor, BWV 582
Toccata, Adagio & Fugue
Kleines harmonisches Labyrinth (Little Harmonic Labyrinth), BWV 591
Pedal-Exercitium, BWV 598
Format:Compact Disc
Record Label:London
Catalog Number:421 337-2
(421 338-2)
(421 339-2)
(421 340-2)
Year Released/Recorded:1977, 1979, 1981
Total Playing Time:disc 1: 71:52
disc 2: 73:06
disc 3: 73:52
Comments:Review by Jan Hanford:

Performance: Stunning with one exception
Recording: Gorgeous even though it's Analog to Digital

People who say they don't like Bach's music because it's "too heavy" are generally referring to the organ works. It's true: the textures are often thick, with complex counterpoint and a lot of echo. However, once you get used to it, Bach's organ works are truly beautiful.

This is a great cd as an introduction to the organ works for the new Bach listener. This 3-cd, budget-priced set contains several of the "famous" pieces, including the Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor and the ultra-famous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. I purchased this particular set because it contains one of only recordings I could find of Bach's Kleines Harmonisches Labyrinth (Little Harmonic Labyrinth).

I'm not an expert on organ players but, to my ears, Peter Hurford's playing is wonderful. His interpretations are precise and energetic, his tempos are excellent and he uses a nice selection of organ stops. Throughout the recording his performance is beautiful.

Except: the toccata from the famous Toccata and Fugue in D Minor. He ruins it with overemphasized staccato and rhythmic variation. It sounds awkward and is too far a departure from the traditional interpretation of probably the most famous organ composition ever. I was very disappointed. Perhaps he was trying to put his personal stamp on it to make it stand out from the crowd. Instead he just ended up ruining it. However, once the overly-dramatic beginning of the toccata has passed, he returns to playing much more evenly and when he reaches the fugue he continues with his usual excellent performance.

Other than that, the recording is beautiful and, therefore, I do highly recommend it (with a warning about the Toccata).

Scott A. Steiner said:

The Organ in the Cathedral at Ratzeburg; W. Germany/The Organ in the Church of Our Lady of Sorrows; Toronto.

Acknowledgements:Thank you to the following for submitting this recording and for your comments:
  • Scott A. Steiner
And from the collection of Jan Hanford.
Date First Submitted:12/16/1997