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Gerhard Weinberger (Organ)

Bach Organ Works from Weinberger, Volume 4


Bach: Organ Works Vol. 4

Prelude in G major, BWV 568 [3:06]
Prelude in A minor, BWV 569 [3:56] *
Fugue on a theme by Legrenzi in C minor, BWV 574 [6:37] *
Fugue in G minor ("Little"), BWV 578 [3:49] *
Fugue on a theme by Corelli in B minor, BWV 579 [5:22]
Oregelbüchlein (Part 2):
Chorale Prelude Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend (I), BWV 632 [1:35] *
Chorale Prelude Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier (I), BWV 633 [1:52] *
Chorale Prelude Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier (II), BWV 634 [1:52] *
Chorale Prelude Dies sind die heilgen zehn Gebot (I), BWV 635 [1:14] *
Chorale Prelude Vater unser im Himmelreich (I), BWV 636 [1:33] *
Chorale Prelude Durch Adams Fall ist ganz verderbt (I), BWV 637 [1:46]
Chorale Prelude Es ist das Heil uns kommen her (I), BWV 638 [0:58]
Chorale Prelude Ich ruf zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ (I), BWV 639 [2:26]
Chorale Prelude Ich dich hab ich gehoffet, Herr, BWV 640 [1:04]
Chorale Prelude Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten sein, BWV 641
Chorale Prelude Wer nur den lieben Gott lässt walten (I), BWV 642 [1:27]
Chorale Prelude Alle Menschen müssen sterben (I), BWV 643 [1:36]
Chorale Prelude Ach wie nichtig, ach wie flüchtig, BWV 644 [1:03]
Chorale Prelude Wo soll ich fliehen hin (I), BWV 646 [2:03]
Chorale Partita O Gott, du frommer Gott, BWV 767 [14:59]
Chorale Partita Ach, was soll ich Sünder machen, BWV 770 [15:07] *

Gerhard Weinberger (Organ) ) [Nicolaus Seeber; Johann Caspar Rommel *]


Jun 1996

CD / TT: 73:36

Recorded at St. Johannes, Thuringia, Germany; St. Blasii, Thuringia, Germany *].
Buy this album at:

Donald Satz wrote (March 15, 2002):
Gerhard Weinberger's 3rd volume of the complete Bach organ works was devoted to the Orgelbüchlein BWV 599-631. Because of Weinberger's slow tempos, the entire Orgelbüchlein could not fit on one disc. Volume 4 completes the Orgelbüchlein and adds seven other Bach works, two of which are major variation pieces (BWV 767 & BWV 770).

I found Weinberger's 3rd volume to be an essential acquisition; his performances of BWV 599-631 are among the best I've encountered to date. I'm a little surprised that Weinberger decided in Volume 4 not to use the same organ as he did in Volume 3. Even more surprising, he uses two different historical organs to complete the Orgelbüchlein.

This 4th volume can be split into three sections: remainder of Orgelbüchlein, the two partitas, and the preludes/fugues. In the remaining Orgelbüchlein pieces, Weinberger continues his winning ways in the same manner as in the 3rd volume. The two variation works, BWV 767 & BWV 770, are severe interpretations which I love and are very distinct from other great performances such as from Lionel Rogg and Wolfgang Rübsam. Weinberger has his ups and downs in the five remaining works, but his ups are tremendous.

Here's the run-down of my journey through the disc:

Orgelbüchlein, BWV 632-636: Weinberger, although using a different organ, just keeps moving ahead with wonderful interpretations except for BWV 636. I find him too heavy and somber for a 'reach out and touch someone' piece of music. His BWV 632 is a joyous delight, BWV 633/634 have never sounded so poignant and lovely, and BWV 635 has a semi-raucous and bragging element which I can't resist. The Johann Caspar Rommel Organ is delightful, and Weinberger uses its registrations in a distinctive and thoroughly satisfying manner.

Orgelbüchlein, BWV 637-644: Switching to the Nicolaus Seeber Organ, Weinberger continues to offer idiomatic, angular, and relatively severe readings which match the music's themes. For example, BWV 637 is about Adam's fall, Eve's duplicity, and the triumph of the serpent. It calls for much austerity and a highighting of the falling sevenths from the pedal which represent Adam's fall from grace. Weinberger hits it perfectly with an austerity that takes command from the start. His angular approach to
the victorious BWV 638 is very impressive. When the tender and melancholy BWV 639 takes center-stage, Weinberger makes the adjustments beautifully. Then he returns to his ominous and angular ways in BWV 640. I would have liked a more strongly projected embellished melody from the soprano voice in BWV 641, and BWV 643 would have benefited from a more energetic delivery. But you can't have everything.

BWV 767 & BWV 770 - For these two variation works, I used Lionel Rogg and Wolfgang Rübsam for comparison. After the listening experience, my lingering thoughts of Weinberger's performances center around their severity. Although Rübsam is certainly no slouch when it comes to severity, Weinberger is the embodiment of the element. Thinking back to earlier Weinberger volumes in his Bach cycle, severity is the one feature that the listener can always count on from him.

Is severity a negative musical performing trait which damages musical beauty and architecture? Not at all, and whether it happens to do any damage depends on how and when the artist delivers the severity. There have been times in the Weinberger cycle where his severity did clash with the basic emotional themes of Bach's music. However, in the majority of cases, this severity has been excellently employed by Weinberger to enhance musical tension, excitement, urgency, and distinctiveness. Can there be beauty in severity? Of course.

The use of severity to enhance musical rewards is excellently displayed through Weinberger's readings of BWV 767 & BWV 770. His variations are gorgeous creations founded on severity which Weinberger gives us through his note values, rhythmic patterns, intervals, and registrations. I won't deny that the severity might not seem appealing at first blush, but once broken through by the listener, sounds just as natural, refreshing, and lyrical as the more tender interpretations by Rübsam and Rogg.

In the Review columns in magazines and on the internet, there have been a host of complaints about Weinberger's style. He is considered austere, insufficiently exuberant, rhythmically stiff, and entirely mundane with his registrations. From my perspective, these negative responses are all based on Weinberger's severity, and those reviewers do not care for Bach's music presented in such a severe manner. Weinberger's peformances have severity at their heart; naturally, if a listener can not accept this level of severity, the readings will be poorly received. My conclusion is that Weinberger's severity often enhances Bach's music, providing a beauty quite different from the norm but just as effective. End of tangent.

Fuga in b, BWV 579 - It figures that after I give Weinberger praise, he totally loses it in BWV 579. There's no problem with the severity; it's that he pulls the rhythm so out of shape that he saps every strand of lyricism in the music. For a majestic and emotionally rich performance, check out Martin Lucker on Hänssler.

Praeludium in G, BWV 568 - This is an improvement over Weinberger's B minor Fuga but still leaves much to be desired. Swirling semi quavers set against strongly sustaining chords can make for an exciting performance. However, fine detail needs to elicited from the semi quavers, and Weinberger's textures are entirely too thick to provide the needed detail.

Fuga in c, BWV 574 - Based on a theme by the Venetian composer Giovanni Legrenzi, this double fugue has quite a cumulative impact from increasingly active figures which keep tightening the tension and urgency of the music. It ends convincingly with a toccata section of collosal proportions. Weinberger punches out his angular rhythm from the start and displays a deep urgency which increases to desperation by the time the toccata begins. The power of Weinberger's toccata is awesome and not to be missed.

Fuga in g, BWV 578 - There are a host of excellent recorded performances such as from Lionel Rogg, Wolfgang Rübsam, Julia Brown, and Ton Koopman. My current favorite is frLehotka on Laserlight, and it's a good comparison for Weinberger; both versions are on the quick side at well under four mintues. However, while Lehotka's pacing sounds just right, Weinberger's conveys a rushed and somewhat perfunctory quality. His reading is not among the best.

Praeludium in a, BWV 569 - A work which consists of many variations of a four-note motif, this piece can easily become monotonous unless performed either with much rhythmic vitality and edge or in a mesmorizing fashion with captivating registrations. Rübsam provides the vitality and edge while Erich Piasetzki on Berlin Classics presents relatively smooth surfaces with an incessant and bold determination which I find mesmorizing; his registrations are delightful and fully exploit the stunning Silbermann Organ of Nassau.

The liner notes written by Weinberger describe BWV 569 as follows:

"It has its effect with its penetrating rhythm and and harmonic surprises and gives us an idea of the youthful fire and gripping energy with which the young Bach was endowed."

It isn't often that the liner note descriptions are a perfect match with the performance, but Weinberger is spot-on. His severity and strength are huge, his sharp articulation penetrates deeply, and I feel like I could physically conquer the world. Put another way, Weinberger blows away all competition.

Don's Conclusions: Three short works on the program, adding up to about twelve minutes of music, aren't worth much in Weinberger's hands. With that out of the way, the disc gives us the concluding settings of Weinberger's exceptional Orgelbüchlein, highly memorable readings of the two major works for variations, and the best performances I've ever heard of BWV 569 & BWV 574.

Consider Volume 4 an essential acquisition. It's the only way to achieve completion of the Orgelbüchlein although the disc has much more to offer as well. Weinberger at his best is the best; at his worst, he can be really bad. The bulk of Volume 4 finds Weinberger on top form. I'm very glad that my opinion of Weinberger's series has risen greatly from his initial volume which didn't hold much promise, and I am looking forward to more volumes from this severe and gripping artist.


Gerhard Weinberger: Short Biography | Recordings of Non-Vocal & Vocal Works
Reviews of Instrumental Recordings:
Bach Organ Works from Weinberger, Vol. 1 | Bach Organ Works from Weinberger, Vol. 2 | Bach Organ Works from Weinberger, Vol. 3 | Bach Organ Works from Weinberger, Vol. 4 | Bach Organ Works from Weinberger, Vol. 5 | Bach Organ Works from Weinberger, Vol. 6 | Gerhard Weinberger's Bach Organ Series, Vol. 15

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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