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Pieter van Dijk (Organ)

Bach Organ Transcriptions from Pieter van Dijk


Edition Bachakademie Vol. 95: Organ Works - Transcriptions

Trio in C minor, BWV 585 [2:49, 2:51]
Trio in G major, BWV 586 [5:02]
Aria in F major, BWV 587 [3:21]
Concerto No. 1 in G major (after Duke J. Ernst), BWV 592 [3:31, 2:22, 2:05]
Concerto No. 2 in A minor (after A. Vivaldi), BWV 593 [4:34, 3:41, 4:46]
Concerto No. 3 in C major (after A. Vivaldi), BWV 594 [7:44, 3:10, 9:00]
Concerto No. 4 in C major (after Duke J. Ernst), BWV 595 [4:25]
Concerto No. 5 in D minor (after A. Vivaldi), BWV 596 [1:09, 0:24, 4:07, 2:31. 3:31]

Pieter van Dijk (Organ)


Oct 25-27, 1999

CD / TT: 71:29

Recorded at Grote St. Laurenskerk, Alkmaar, Holland.
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Donald Satz wrote (June 10, 2001):
Bach transcribed for the organ many works of other composers such as Vivaldi concertos. The demands of compositional quantity were great, and the transcription process shortened the length of time necessary to come up with new works or arrangements.

Discs devoted to Bach organ transcriptions are not exactly plentiful; these arrangements are usually inserted into Bach recital discs for the likely reason that the original compositions were not of great depth. However, Hänssler for the Bach anniversary was devoted to recording every Bach note and released a disc just of organ transcriptions performed by Pieter van Dijk. The catalog number is 92.095 and total time is 71:03. The transcriptions included are:

BWV 585 - Trio in C minor after Johann Friedrich Fasch.
BWV 586 - Trio in G major after Georg Philipp Telemann.
BWV 587 - Aria in F major after Francois Couperin.
BWV 592 - Concerto in G major after Johann Ernst von Sachsen.
BWV 593 - Concerto in A minor after Antonio Vivaldi.
BWV 594 - Concerto in C major after Antonio Vivaldi.
BWV 595 - Concerto in C major after Johann Ernst von Sachsen.
BWV 596 - Concerto in D minor after Antonio Vivaldi.

Mr. van Dijk, born in 1958, is church organist at the Lutheran church in Alkmaar. He also teaches organ and has written articles on various baroque and pre-baroque composers. van Dijk's teachers have included Gustav Leonhardt, Marie-Claire Alain, and Jan Raas.

For the Hanssler disc, van Dijk performs on the von Hagerbeer/Schnitger organ in the St. Laurenskerk in Alkmaar. This organ was constructed in 1646 and extensively renovated by Frans Caspar Schnitger from 1722 to 1725. Many minor modifications have been made since that time.

Concerning other reviews, I'm aware of only one in American Record Guide.The reviewer considered the recording one "to be shunned unless you are a musical flagellant". Specifically, he felt the tempos were "cautious and stodgy", the art of registration minimal, and the miking too close. I don't usually agree with this particular reviewer.

BWV 585 - This is a transcription of two movements (adagio-allegro) from a trio sonata for two violins and continuo by Fasch. Although written at about the same time as Bach's six Trio Sonatas for Organ, the pedal only provides supporting notes not directly related to the music's themes. The Adagio is a sad one with a few rays of light; the Allegro is more upbeat with fine strong momentum.

Mr. van Dijk is very impressive in BWV 585. Not only isn't his tempo stodgy in the Adagio, he provides the most rhythmically alert performance I've heard with wonderful registrations. More than that, he gives the piece an irresistable insistence and wealth of expressiveness which makes the the Adagio a masterful transcription. Christopher Herrick's performance of the Adagio for Hyperion is a lovely and solemn interpretation. However, give them both a listen and hear how much more diversity van Dijk delivers. In the Allegro, van Dijk does very well but quicker pacing would likely have been adavantageous. His reading can't quite match the vibrant Werner Jacob on EMI.

BWV 586 - The Trio is likely an arrangement of a Telemann keyboard work. It's only in one movement and is not complex in construction. The piece is strong on cadences, imitation, and parallel thirds. The music is emotionally uplifting and has a grandeur about it. van Dijk takes a little over five minutes which is similar to Jacob; Herrick only uses a little over four minutes, and I feel that's advantageous. Herrick gives the music a lift and excitement the other two don't realize. However, van Dijk does inject stature, and the grandeur and joy are on full display. This is likely the kind of tempo that the ARG reviewer objects to but although it might not be the best tempo, I don't hear anything stodgy about it - a fine interpretation.

BWV 587 - This Aria is from Francois Couperin's "Les Nations". It's in trio form with the pedal having equal stature. The piece is lovely and has a flowing rhythm suitable for elegant dancing. Herrick, Jacob, and van Dijk certainly provide a wide range of tempos; Jacob is over five minutes, Herrick a little over four minutes, and van Dijk takes a little over three minutes. Jacob sounds like the stodgy one, Herrick is gorgeous, and van Dijk quite distinctive. As in his Adagio from BWV 585, van Dijk provides an insistence with the quicker tempo and is a fine alternative to Herrick.

BWV 592 - Transcribed from a concerto of Italian dimensions, BWV 592 has two fast and optimistic movements framing a Grave that's quite melancholy. Tempo-wise, van Dijk is exhibiting a discernable pattern; fast music is played relatively slow, and slow music is played quickly. I don't say this as a negative or positive, just an observation. van Dijk's first movement does not possess the effervescence of Kevin Bowyer's excellent first movement on Nimbus, but the third movement finds van Dijk at the core of the music's energy and lyricism. In the second movement, van Dijk is quick but just as poignant as Bowyer. Overall, the van dijk BWV 592 is as fine a reading as any other I know.

BWV 593 - A transcription of Vivaldi's Concerto in A minor Op. 3, No. 8, van Dijk more than meets his match in the Karl Richter version on DG. Compared to Richter, van Dijk is slow and without much vitality in the outer movements. The foundation of the two outer movements is based on the alternation between tutti and solo passages; since development is thin, it is crucial that that these alternations between the strong tutti passages and the hushed/mysterious solo ones be as contrasting and vivid as possible. Also, the tutti areas need a high degree of angularity. Richter seems to intuitively understand the demands of the music; van Dijk is too smooth and sedate; contrasts are much weaker than with Richter. However, van Dijk's surprisingly slow middle movement is the equal of Richter's.

BWV 594 - This work is a transcription of Vivaldi's Concerto in D major from his Opus 7 set. The first movement again greatly depends on the alternation of tutti and solo passages; although once more on the slow side, van Dijk displays a more energetic approach than in BWV 593; that's all to the good. The second movement is a recitative with a morose quality that van Dijk well captures. The third movement is quite a distance from vintage Vivaldi or Bach. Banal and repetitive passages emanate from both tutti and solo sections; development is thin which is perhaps appropriate since there's very little that's worthy to develop.Yet, this is almost a ten minute piece; paring it down to about two minutes would have been a great decision. Listening to someone try to make something out of nothing for almost ten minutes is tough duty. Jacobs really brings out the worst in the music; he applies an exponential factor to the repitition and banality. van Dijk is bearable. Any artist who could get me to enjoy this third movement would have my unending admiration, but I don't think it's possible.

BWV 595 - This is only a fast movement from a three movement concerto by von Sachsen. Richter again leaves the slower and less vibrant van Dijk in the shade. To be fair, I feel that Richter easily surpasses all others in his recordings of Bach's concerto transcriptions. He brings out the full mastery of Bach's arrangements.

BWV 596 - Here's another transcription of a Vivaldi concerto; this one's from his Opus 3, Number 11. The first movement has three sections: Allegro, Grave, and Fugue. The Allegro swirls mysteriously, the Grave is ear-splitting and insistent, and the Fugue is urgent and uplifting. Kevin Bowyer's version is excellent and well captures the moods of the music. van Dijk does well until he hits the Fugue - much too slow and austere. This is the first time that van Dijk has replaced poetry with power.

As usual, the slow movement finds van Dijk at his best; he does a beautiful job blending the solo voice from the second manual with the accompanied homophonic chords from the left hand. Bach provides a maximim degree of technical variety to the third movement Allegro. Again, van Dijk is slow of pace and doesn't attain the vitality of a fine performance such as Bowyer's. van Dijk's reading drags a little.

That's all for the music. Pieter van Dijk is a man of two stripes. His slow movements are generally quick, very alert, and excellent. The fast movements are rather slowish and would benefit from greater vitality. There are times when I do believe his rhythmic lift is greater in slow movements than in fast ones. I can't deny that my enjoyment of the fast movements tended to fade some when I listened straight-through to the disc. I also can't deny that the promise of van Dijk's magical Adagio from BWV 585 never again surfaced.

Don's Conclusions: A disc of Bach organ transcriptions does not hold much of a chance of being a big seller. However, the music is much better than the typical baroque transcription and having these arrangements on one disc can be appealing to serious Bach record collectors. The performances of van Dijk have their virtues primarily in the slower movements; none of the fast movements is among the best available. Also, there is a cumulative impact from the less than sterling vitality van Dijk brings to the table in those fast movements. For all but the most avid Bach lovers, I can't recommend the recording. I do give it a qualified recommendation for those who want to own all Bach issues of merit.

The ARG reviewer made a point of bringing up what he considers close miking, and I do agree. The closeness does not result in an overbearing quality, but there is little space to the soundstage. Unlike the ARG reviewer, I don't feel that the sound interferes with the performances but some buyers might find it irritating. I'd recommend sampling the Adagio from BWV 585; if the sound is problematic and/or the performance not wonderful, you'll be in for a rough 70 minutes if you buy the disc. That movement's the highlight and if it doesn't grab you, nothing will. Personally, I end up thinking better of van Dijk's readings than in the review I cited, but Richter's recorded performances leave no doubt that van Dijk is not a stellar Bach performing artist. He needs to rethink his approach to tempo and particularly zest and bounce in Bach's faster music. I'm certain he can make the favorable adjustments which would render him an excellent intepreter. Perhaps he will do just that, since I doubt he'll be reading highly complimentary reviews of his recording.


Feedback to the Review

Johan van Veen wrote (June 11, 2001):
[To Donald Satz] Basically I agree with your conclusions. Although I know Pieter van Dijk from a number of recordings - he records regularly for Dutch radio – and generally like his performances, I don't think this is his kind of music. He is a little too introverted for these concertos, I suppose. I have compared this recording with Hans Fagius (originally BIS, reissued on Brilliant Classics) and in almost every case Fagius won hands down. He is articulating more sharply, his tempi are more contrasting, he uses the right amount of ornamentation and his performances have the right kind of "swing". The most brilliant performance is BWV 594, after Vivaldi's violin concerto 'Il grosso mogul', in which the solo violin part is quite virtuoso and unusually long (compared with other Vivaldi concertos). Fagius is able to realise the "violin" character of the solo part very well, better than almost every other recording I know. Those who want the concertos only have a problem: they are not available as a set, since they are spread over the whole series.


Complete Bach's Organ Works on Hänssler: Recordings
Short Biographies:
Bine Katrine Bryndorf | Pieter van Dijk | Kay Johannsen | Martin Lücker | Andrea Marcon | Wolfgang Zerer
Early Bach Organ Works from Andrea Marcon (A. Marcon) | “Scales from Weimar” (M. Lücker) | Five Recordings of Bach’s Orgelbüchlein (W. Zerer) | Bach Organ Transcriptions from Pieter van Dijk (P.v. Dijk) | Three Recent Recordings of Bach's Leipzig Chorales: Part 1 | Part 2 (B.K. Bryndorf) | “Late Organ Works from the Leipzig Period” (M. Lücker) | Bach’s Trio Sonatas for Organ from Johannsen and Lippincott (K. Johannsen) | Bach Great Organ Mass by Kay Johannssen (K. Johannsen)

Instrumental Works: Recordings, Reviews & Discussions - Main Page | Order of Discussion
Recording Reviews of Instrumental Works: Main Page | Organ | Keyboard | Solo Instrumental | Chamber | Orchestral, MO, AOF
Performers of Instrumental Works: Main Page | A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z


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