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Harald Vogel (Pedal Clavichord)

“The Bach Circle”, Volume 1


The Bach Circle, Volume 1 – Selected Organ Works

Preludes & Fugues, BWV 553 thru BWV 560
Praeludium in G minor, BWV 535
Prelude & Fugue in E minor, BWV 533
Fantasie in G major, BWV 572
Orgelbüchlein, BWV 599, 604, 614, 626, 629, 641, 642

Harald Vogel (Pedal Clavichord)



CD / TT: 66:22

Donald Satz wrote (December 15, 2001):
Summary Rating: A+

I have already reviewed Volume 2 of this three volume survey dedicated to the organ works of Bach, others of his time, and a few who came before and after him. I offered a qualified recommendation to Volume 2 because of what I felt was a rather limiting program of works.

I need to point out that Volume 1 has an "Organeum" label whereas Volume 2 is from Loft Recordings. The two companies apparently have an intimate link, and both these volumes and Volume 3 as well are distributed by Loft Recordings.

The most significant difference between Volume 1 and 2 is that Vogel uses a pedal clavichord in Volume 1. The pedal clavichord was quite prevalent in Germany in the 18th century, being considered excellent for developing a sensitive playing style. The particular instrument used by Vogel is a 1995 copy of a pedal harpsichord built by Johann David Gerstenberg in 1766 which is now housed in the Musical Instrument Museum in Leipzig, Germany. Both instruments have two manuals and an independent pedal.

BWV 553 thru BWV 600 are generally referred to as the "Eight Little Preludes and Fugues" and take up about half the disc. They are quite short, and authorship is spurious. However, my ears tell me that these are wonderful pieces which Bach must have had a hand in developing. They range from intense poignancy to the joy and exuberance of life. I happen to be familiar with a superb set of performances from Martin Lucker on Hanssler. Lucker is a very tough standard for Vogel to match and I quickly discovered that it would be unreasonable to offer any comparisons, because the pedal harpsichord makes them irrelevant. Its sound is so similar to a clavichord with a stronger bass thrown in. The instrument couldn't possibly deliver the weight and power of Marcon's organ; it must be judged on what it does deliver.

Of course, the pedal clavichord doesn't play itself, so my comments apply equally to Harald Vogel. The two deliver a vibrant intimacy; there is nothing recessed about the performances or the instrument. The pedal obviously gives the sound greater depth and expressiveness. Vogel is uniformly quite slow; momentum is not a major priority as he converses with us in a relaxed manner. The emotional depth he provides is stunning and greatly enhanced by his mastery of the instrument. Accenting is delicious and joy permeates the interpretations.

Vogel often uses hesitations, and they are the most effective I've heard in a very long time. The detail provided by the pedal clavichord is illuminating, and Vogel consistently provides an air of improvisation. Best of all, it's so easy to put yourself in Bach's music room surrounded by family and close friends, all having a meaningful and satisfying evening. To put it mildly, the recording is delightful and thoroughly distinctive.

All I have said applies equally to each work on the disc. I was most impressed with the Orgelbüchlein selections which sound like a perfect match for the pedal clavichord; these selections represent superb programming.

Don's Conclusions: Pack away any preconceptions and listen to these works in a soundworld very different from the organ's. This is a definite 'must-have' recording for anyone who loves Bach on organ, clavichord, or harpsichord.

Donald Satz wrote (February 21, 2002):
Just a Recommendation

Quite a few weeks ago, I obtained the three volumes from Harald Vogel titled "The Bach Circle". These volumes consist of organ music by Bach and a few others. Volumes II and III are fine, but it's the first volume with which I'm really impressed. Vogel plays Volume I on the pedal clavichord. I've not been a big fan of the clavichord, although I couldn't quite put my finger on the reasons. The pedal clavichord has a depth to its sound which erases my skepticism.

I started to compare Vogel's performances to others on organ and quickly discovered that was a waste of time. The instrument and Vogel's interpretations give the works an entirely different nature of reflection and poignancy. Vogel pays no heed to drive and momentum, as he navigates continuously on horizontal paths. This time around, I could care less about momentum given Vogel's alluring and relaxed performances. I love that pedal clavichord he uses.

If I'm in error and did already post about this recording, please accept for apologies. For those interested in the disc, and it's hardly a new one, purchase can be made through the Loft Recordings Website - good screens and great service.

Harald Vogel: “The Bach Circle”, Volume 1 | “The Bach Circle”, Volume 2 | “The Bach Circle”, Volume 3

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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