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Whatever the political motivations during the era of the Berlin Wall, and despite our better understanding today of the organs in his back yard, the ‘marriage’ of the phenomenon Bach with the phenomenon Arp Schnitger persists. There are certain works in Bach’s repertoire which so obviously look north that their effect on Schnitger organs remains telling; the Toccata, Adagio & Fugue with its extended pedal solo, and heard here to thrilling effect with tierces and 32ftreed throughout the Toccata, is one example. The trio sonatas leave me uncomfortable, however: the tuning of the Jacobi organ (1/5th comma meantone) is pushed too far, too often (BWV 526/3 with the lefthand played, curiously, on a trumpet is particularly painful – all those A flats and D flats…).

There is no such thing, of course, as an ‘ideal’ Bach organ, and one should not forget that, but for a quirk of 18th-century Hanseatic politics, he may well have presided over this very instrument. However, after the 1720 debacle in which he was turned down for the Hamburg post, Bach never again ventured so far north; and the fact remains that there are organs, most especially in Thuringia, where a wealth of 8ftflue stops (including strings) suggests a more obvious path for chamber music, reflecting, for example, the spirit of the trio registrations prescribed by Georg Kauffmann in his Harmonische Seelenlust of 1733. Kåre Nordstoga’s registrations tend towards the use of upperwork, mutations and fractional length reeds with which the Jacobi organ is, of course, especially blessed. The playing is deft, although I miss some shape in the pedal lines (most especially in passages of consequent quavers such as BWV 529/1, bars 12-17, or BWV 530/3 in general, where the use of one foot repeatedly, rather than alternate toes, tends to result in accents on the smaller note values).

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Choir & Organ, 2016 - ©Rhinegold Publishing