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The glory of these recordings lies in the sounds of the eight historic organs in various pitches and temperaments, closely recorded to project the speech of the pipes within clear acoustics. It is good that these discs, originally released separately, should now be put together, for the result is a fascinating compendium of historic organs in ‘south Germany’ (i.e. the southern part of the German-speaking region, including parts of Austria, Switzerland, Poland and Bohemia). All the instruments chosen are relevant to composer, chronology and geographic region.

The musical scope extends from the Buxheim Organ Book (c.1460) to Pachelbel (d.1706), and includes some of the most important organ repertory. From the 258 compositions in the Buxheim Organ Book, Joseph Kelemen has recorded 26 pieces divided between preludes and liturgical pieces, admirably bringing the historic organs to life. From the 17th-century Turin tablature, a selection of introits, canzonas, ricercars and an organ Mass by Hans Leo Hassler are given lively performances in which the influence of Andrea Gabrieli’s Venetian polychoral style is clearly evident.

Perhaps the most interesting disc is Kerll’s complete toccatas, canzonas, capriccios and chaconnes, which are given fine performances full of vitality and reflecting the influence of Frescobaldi. The complete recording of Muffat’s Apparatus musico-organisticus (1690), with its pot-pourri of French, German and Italian influences, is valuable. No original registration instructions were printed, so the choice of tonal colours is subjective. Most toccatas work well, although I missed the evocation of bird song in Toccata sexta. Pachelbel, who was taught by Kerll in Vienna, represents both north and south German traditions, which is audible in Kelemen’s selection of preludes, toccatas, ciaconas, fugues and chorale-based works. The Stertzing organ is full of character, although there is scope for more expressive musicality in the chorale variations. Altogether though, a very worthy collection.

DAVID PONSFORD Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Choir & Organ, 2017 - ©Rhinegold Publishing