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Two fine releases of Bach’s great Clavierübung III invite serious comparison, for both are infused with integrity. The main differences are the organs. The 1975 Metzler is a modern historic organ, tuned in a mild unequal temperament at A440, whereas the marvellous 1739 Wagner organ (built in the very year that Clavierubung III was published!) is tuned in a more colourful Werckmeister II, and at a higher pitch (A452). Tempi, of course, vary. James Johnstone’s ‘fast’ pieces (e.g. the larger Christus, unser Herr, zum Jordan kam) achieve real momentum, but his 6/4 Dies sind die heiligen zehen Gebot stresses the expressive features of the quavers at the expense of the two-beats-per-bar metre. Stephen Farr’s playing is more predictable, eliciting some lovely sounds from the Metzler. Both players are rather deliberate in their rhythmic treatment of the opening Prelude in E flat, and both miss the opportunity of a French registration (two cornet parts, two cromorne parts and pedal, à la Grigny) in Vater unser in Himmelreich, which is full of French figurae. Both players, also, seem to be playing to their respective buildings, the result sometimes being rather deliberate tempi when listening in domestic surroundings. Nevertheless, these are notable interpretations.

DAVID PONSFORD Read the full review on Agora Classica

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