Gerhard Weinberger (Organ)
Bach Organ Works from Weinberger, Volume 3
Bach: Organ Works Vol. 3
Orgelbüchlein (Part 1):
Chorale Prelude Nun komm der Heiden Heiland (I), BWV 599 [1:58]
Chorale Prelude Gott, durch deine Güte, BWV 600 [1:22]
Chorale Prelude Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn (I), BWV 601 [1:42]
Chorale Prelude Lob sei dem allmächtigen Gott (I), BWV 602 [1:00]
Chorale Prelude Puer natus in Bethlehem, BWV 603 [2:16]
Chorale Prelude Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ (I), BWV 604 [2:00]
Chorale Prelude Der Tag, der ist so freudenreich (I), BWV 605 [2:02]
Chorale Prelude Vom Himmel hoch, da komm ich her (I), BWV 606 [0:58]
Chorale Prelude Vom Himmel kam der Engel schar, BWV 607 [1:20]
Chorale Prelude In dulci jubilo (I), BWV 608 [1:42]
Chorale Prelude Lobt Gott, ihr Christen, allzugleich (I), BWV 609 [1:03]
Chorale Prelude Jesu, meine Freude (I), BWV 610 [2:27]
Chorale Prelude Christum wir sollen loben schon, BWV 611 [3:28]
Chorale Prelude Wir Christenleut' (I), BWV 612 [1:55]
Chorale Prelude Helft mir Gottes Güte preisen (I), BWV 613 [1:23]
Chorale Prelude Das alte Jahr vergangen ist (I), BWV 614 [2:28]
Chorale Prelude In dir ist Freude, BWV 615 [3:07]
Chorale Prelude Mit Fried' und Freud' ich fahr dahin, BWV 616 [2:12]
Chorale Prelude Herr Gott, nun schleuss den Himmel auf (I), BWV 617 [2:21]
Chorale Prelude O Lamm Gottes unschuldig (I), BWV 618 [5:48]
Chorale Prelude Christe, du Lamm Gottes, BWV 619 [1:43]
Chorale Prelude Christus, der uns selig macht (I), BWV 620 [2:36]
Chorale Prelude Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stund', BWV 621 [2:09]
Chorale Prelude O Mensch, bewein' dein' Sünde gross, BWV 622 [4:58]
Chorale Prelude Wir danken dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 623 [1:19]
Chorale Prelude Hilf Gott, dass mir's gelinge, BWV 624 [1:40]
Chorale Prelude Christ lag in Todesbanden (I), BWV 625 [1:40]
Chorale Prelude Jesus Christus, unser Heiland (I), BWV 626 [1:01]
Chorale Prelude Christ ist erstanden (I), BWV 627 [4:11]
Chorale Prelude Erstanden ist der heil'ge Christ (I), BWV 628 [0:51]
Chorale Prelude Erschienen ist der herrliche Tag, BWV 629 [1:08]
Chorale Prelude Heut triumphieret Gottes Sohn (I), BWV 630 [1:35]
Chorale Prelude Komm, Gott Schöpfer, heiliger Geist (II), BWV 631 [1:08]
Gerhard Weinberger (Organ) [Joachim Wagner, 1739-1741]
CD / TT: 68:31
Recorded at Nidarosdom, Trondheim, Norway.
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Donald Satz wrote (December 12, 2001):
Don's Conclusion: The zenith of performance and interpretation.
I have already reviewed Volumes 1 & 2 of Gerhard Weinberger's complete traversal of the Bach organ works. Volume 1, which mainly consisted of the so-called Kirnberger Chorales, was not recommended as I found Weinberger much too severe and solemn for these fine pieces. However, I did strongly recommend Volume 2 which consisted of the first eight Leipzig Chorales along with two other works.
For Volume 3, Weinberger gives us the majority of the chorales from Bach's Orgelbüchlein; he completes the set in Volume 4. This is unavoidable since his tempos do not allow for the entire set on one disc.
Prior to listening to the disc, I didn't have a particular expectation of Weinberger's performances. I had thought that Volume 2 might be problematic based on his inability in Volume 1 to cater to Bach's more tender side, but I was way off as Weinberger's eight Leipzig Chorales were treasurable. However, the two preludes & fugues on Volume 2 brought Weinberger back to the reservations I possessed concerning his first volume.
Which Weinberger do we meet in Volume 3? The best yet. In fact, I consider this disc the best recording I've reviewed this year. The dominant features of Weinberger's performances are severity, power, bite, angularity, side-ways rhythms, distinctive and always attractive registrations, slow tempos, majesty, nobility, tenderness, comfort, assurance, melancholy, intense sadness, dread, and what sounds to me like an umbilical chord attached to the composer. Can you get all this from one performer on one organ. It must be so, and that's why it's my recording of the year.
Weinberger begins in exceptional fashion with BWV 599; he stretches the music out horizontally and with strong angularity, while the intensity and beauty in his reading are second to none. Weinberger's magical interpretation easily supplants my previous favorite from Lionel Rogg.
Weinberger moves forward with a wonderful BWV 602. This is muscular music which he captures perfectly with a side-ways rhythm. My previous preferred version from Wolfgang Zerer on Hanssler now sounds too fast and superficial. Weinberger's great power combined with much emotional depth has no peers.
BWV 603 finds Weinberger very slow and again using a side-ways rhythm which I find irresistable; the churning of the bass voice is very effective. The performance is strong and severe without losing sight of the poetic elements. It's also much different than most versions including the exceptional one from Simon Preston which has greater optimism and bounce. However, my affections go to the Weinberger.
What strikes me most up to this point in the recording is that Weinberger has offered three out of five chorales which are now my preferred versions. That's a fantastic percentage given the host of excellent recordings of the Orgelbüchlein on the market. And there are more outstanding performances as the disc progresses - many more.
Weinberger takes BWV 604 at a very slow pace with a pleading chorale melody and a nobility of strong proportion; it's a delectable interpretation. The strength of his BWV 605 along with the rhythmic vitality he provides results in a stunning performance.
If you're seeking the severity and darkness of the underworld from BWV 610, Weinberger's your man; I've never heard any performance quite like it as the text gets turned on its head. His BWV 611 is a perfect combination of severity and beauty; the contrasts are particularly illuminating. In BWV 612, Weinberger snakes his way through the music with a steel-like demeanor.
Do you want some emotional depth and angst? Look no further than Weinberger's BWV 614; the melancholy and drama ooze out of the speakers and grab one's soul. The patriotic and heroic BWV 615 gets a majestic sendoff from Weinberger as he takes the Wagner Organ through its paces; no warrior could be immune to his fanfare. For BWV 617, Weinberger gives us a consistently mysterious and mesmorizing performance with enchanting registrations.
Looking for sadness in all the wrong places? Weinberger's BWV 618 has it in full measure; his tenor voice has such a soft yet intense sadness to it. Weinberger can also deliver much comfort as in his BWV 619; as usual, the registrations are highly distinctive as Weinberger gets the best out of the Joachim Wagner Organ.
BWV 621 concerns Christ's last words on the cross; this is bleak business, and Weinberger goes ever so slowly and mournfully through each syllable. Bach's gorgeous and noble BWV 622 gets a thoroughly spacious and lovingly poignant reading from Weinberger.
Weinberger sounds like the 'Man of Iron' in the power-packed BWV 625. The music is dominated by a descending step-by-step motif which also can rise; the enternal struggle between darkness and light does not abate. And Weinberger sure knows what darkness is all about. Contrasts between good and evil also permeate BWV 627, and nobody extends the envelope on both sides more than Weinberger. The majesterial and spiritually uplifting BWV 630 receives a royal welcome from him, and the concluding BWV 631 has an irresistable rhythmic flow and optimism.
Are the performances I haven't mentioned a bunch of losers? No, they are merely excellent. That would be good enough, but Weinberger offers so much more.
I'm not going to guarantee that everyone will find Weinberger's Volume 3 an enlightening and lsitening experience. Those who have a distate for the severity in Bach's music will likely be turned off before many minutes go by. However, I really believe that this is a disc that must be heard. There is no other Orgelbüchlein like it, and Gerhard Weinberger deserves my thanks for giving me such a magnificent set of performances. Now its on to Volume 4 and the remainder of the Orgelbüchlein and other works as well.