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Harald Vogel (Organ)

“The Bach Circle”, Volume 2


The Bach Circle, Volume 2 - Baroque Organ Music

Toccata & Fugue in D minor, BWV 565 Bach
Partita: Jesu meine Freude Walther
Es its das Heil uns kommen her Walther
Preaeludium in A minor Improvisation
Fugue 14 Telemann
Partita, BWV 770 Bach
Settings on "Wer nur den lieben Gott laft walten":
Duo Telemann
BWV 691 from Anna Magdalena Notebook Bach
BWV 642 from Orgelbüchlein Bach
From the Harmonische Seelenlust Kauffmann
From the Clavierbung Krebs

Harald Vogel (Organ)
[Treutmann Organ, Graunhof, Germany (1737)]

Loft Recordings

Oct 1993

CD / TT: 60:34

Donald Satz wrote (November 22, 2001):
The theme of this disc and the two other recordings in the series, Volume 1 and 3, is to present works by Bach, his predecessors, contemporaries, and students on historic organs. For this disc, the contemporaries are Telemann, Walther, and Kauffmann; Krebs is the pupil.

I should point out that the three discs in this series from Loft Recordings are reissues from three original discs released in Europe on Organeum Recordings in 1998. Harald Vogel, a well known figure in Baroque historical performance practices, is the artist on the three discs. Vogel has recorded extensively over the years including the complete Buxtehude organ works on MDG. My first exposure to him was a DHM/Bach disc which I still enjoy very much.

Looking at the disc's program, I feel there are three sections to it. One is the five treatments of the chorale "Wer nur den lieben Gott laft walten", a second is supplied by the Partitas from Bach and Walthers, and the third section is made up of the remaining works.

It is both interesting and at the same time musically limiting to have these five treatments of one chorale. The Telemann is the least attractive treatment as its potential for being a dreary piece is strong, and Vogel does not lift it out of the doldrums. The Kauffmann treatment is a short and pleasing work with a nice rhythmic sway. The Krebs chorale setting comes in three sections. The first is sprightly and optimistic, while the second is melancholy with a texture that gets filled out at the conclusion. The third section is muscular and ceremonial. This sequence tends to apply to each of the thirteen settings which constitutes the Krebs Clavier-Ubung.

Loft Recordings has another performance of this Krebs chorale setting from William Porter on a disc devoted to the entire Clavier-Bung. It's a wonderful reading on a glorious and sweet historical Swedish organ, but I like the Vogel performance even more. Vogel injects a strong urging and darkness into the second section resulting in a more diverse interpretation than Porter's; Vogel is also more vibrant in this section. As for the two organs, the Treutmann takes no backseat to its Swedish counterpart.

That leaves the two Bach settings. BWV 691 is flat-out gorgeous music which Vogel performs well, although Christopher Herrick, Lionel Rogg, and a few others bring to the surface more of its beauty. In BWV 642, a very strong and energetic piece, Vogel rivals my favorite version which comes from Rene Saorgin on his complete Orgelbüchlein disc from Harmonia Mundi.

This brings me to what I consider an odd omission on Vogel's part. Bach's BWV 641 has a natural partner in BWV 640 which is based on the same chorale. Vogel doesn't include it in his program, and I fail to see the sense of it. The work is less than two minutes long and would have easily fit on the disc with still plenty of room for more music.

At any rate, Vogel does excellently with the five treatments, and I have yet to hear anyone get much out of Telemann's Duo.

Why place the Bach and Krebs Partitas together? Each is a set of 10 variations/movements in a relatively intimate setting except for the last variation which is muscular, powerful, and ceremonial. The Krebs is fine music played excellently by Vogel. The Bach Partita is one of four chorale partitas composed by Bach. It is considered to possibly not be by Bach due to its thematic limitations, but I think it matters greatly who is playing the work. Erich Piasetzki on Berlin Classics gives a fantastic reading on a Silbermann organ; his registrations are masterful and distinctive, and he carries the day on conveying as much exuberance as the music has to offer. In fact, I can't think of a better organ version of any Bach work to highlight the importance of the registrations the performer utilizes. Harald Vogel takes an intimate approach with much priority on 'atmosphere'. Although an excellent performance, it simply can't hold up to Piasetzki whose priority is 'interest'.

Concerning the rest of the program, the short Krebs chorale is another fine piece played in a serene manner. Vogel's improvisational Praeludium to Telemann's Fugue 14 is striking and powerful; that also applies to the Fugue itself which I find much more enjoyable than the Telemann Duo. Vogel acquits himself well, delivering the strength and poetry inherent in the music.

Vogel's performance of Bach's 'spurious' BWV 565 moves along splendidly until the 6:20 mark of the music. All of a sudden, Vogel ups the volume tremendously, and his organ does not respond well. Actually, it sounds sour and seems to be boiling over its capacity; I might as well identify the sound as being analogous to a guy 'flipping his lid'. Personally, the overall performance just isn't worth having to endure this horrible sound.

Don's Conclusions - There is certainly much to enjoy in this second volume from Harald Vogel. Yet, the disc does not leave me fully satisfied: too much of one particular chorale, one partita too many, and a major screw-up in Bach's BWV 565. My primary reservation is based on a lack of sufficient diversity of music; there's just too much intimate business going on. I wish my reaction had been one of increased comfort; instead, I kept mumbling to myself "Show some life".

And where is a predecessor of Bach? Not on this disc. In summary, I give Vogel a guarded recommendation.

P.S. - Where's Volume 1? Still on order. Why not wait until it arrives? Impatience.

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

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