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This recording revives the late 18th-century English practice of playing the ‘48’ on the organ, before Bach’s real organ music became well known. The music is so strongly structured and stylistically particular that it will survive any amount of transference to other instruments, but there are challenges. Harpsichordists’ technique of holding down notes in chordal contexts (e.g. Preludes in C and F minor, vol.1) hardly work on the organ, and a comparison between the Prelude in C major (vol.2) and the organ Prelude in C major BWV 545 (based on similar material) reveals a marked difference between harpsichord and organ textures. However, Robert Costin has chosen a fine organ to record the WTC, with unequal temperament and excellent voicing, and registrations are varied effectively. Tempi sometimes lack forward movement, although the gigue fugues are lively and the French over- ture style of the D major Fugue (vol.1) is well realised. Some of the best interpretations are of two-part pieces played on light flute registrations, although the lowest notes can be rather lost on the organ. Sometimes registrations can be strange; perhaps some contemporary French registrations for duos and trios à deux dessus would have been more historically grounded.

DAVID PONSFORD Read the full review on Agora Classica

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