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When an organ recording of the Goldberg Variations pops up, one is faced once again with the question as to whether performing Bach’s manualiter keyboard repertoire on the organ is a valid exercise. The present eloquent interpretation suggests that, in certain circumstances at least, the translation is more than worthwhile. Indeed, the Lucerne organist Martin Heini plays throughout this double CD-set with such precision and elegance that it’s difficult to understand why he isn’t better known. The organ, an all-mechanical III/43 Goll in a historic case and favourable acoustics, is immaculately finished and consistently attractive without ever sounding ‘old’ (rather like a Metzler, the flutes especially reminiscent of their best work). Heini uses the instrument intelligently; the gigue (var.7) for example, played on the French duo registration of Cornet décomposé versus Cromorne, is immediately reminiscent of similar movements in the French literature Bach knew so well. Of the organ repertoire included, Heini’s one-registration Passacaglia ends somewhat quicker than it begins but its irrepressible momentum ensures the listener’s attention never flags.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica

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