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The latest organ DVD from Italian film-maker Federico Savia is a vehicle for the talents of Milanese organist Alessio Corti, a former student of Lionel Rogg, whom he succeeded as professor of organ and improvisation at the Geneva Conservatoire in 2001. The handsome walnut and faux-marble cased II/39 organ of the Kreuzkirche in the Thuringian town of Suhl was built in 1738 by Eilert (or Eilertus) Köhler, about whom very little is known. It is possible that J.S. Bach himself might have known the organ – he had inaugurated the organ in Suhl’s Hauptkirche St Marien, and had strong local family connections. The instrument sits on a gallery high above the altar baldachin, the two architectural elements together creating something of a baroque explosion in this otherwise quite plain triple-galleried Protestant church. The organ was undoubtedly Köhler’s magnum opus – standing more in the Silbermann than the Schnitger tradition, it has been hailed as one of the best instruments extant from the first half of the 18th century; it was the subject of an eight-year restoration project, completed in 2007 by Alexander Schuke Orgelbau, Potsdam.

Corti, who remarkably required fewer than half a dozen music edits in the entire recording, adopts a faithful and unflashy approach to the sonatas, which he performs with toe-only technique, so you do need to be prepared for pedal lines with detached articulation. Bach wrote the sonatas for expressly peda- gogical purposes: Savia serves this with a conservative camera script, majoring on Corti’s hands and feet, the heels occasionally glimpsed in multi-screen mode at church mouse’s eye level: he pans over the case and the church interior, but avoids tracking shots.

All of the registrations are listed in the liner notes; DVD extras include an interview with Corti (subtitled in four languages), a backstage film and a photo gallery. There are also two bonus tracks: Johann Michael Bach’s chorale prelude In dulci jubilo (showing offthe organ’s Glockenspiel stop), and JSB’s Prelude & Fugue in G major BWV 541, which Corti rather charmingly confesses he included because the Trio Sonatas didn’t admit the use of the organo pleno!

GRAEME KAY Read the full review on Agora Classica

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