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B orgreve

M arco

:

p h o t o g r a p h y

Gramophone Awards Shortlist 2016

the essence of the chorale; its Christmas provenance is fragrantly atmospheric. The close, with its ingeniously compressed lines and the composer’s outrageous sign-off, literally spelling his name (B is B flat and H is B natural), is celebrated in some style by Suzuki.

But it’s the gripping drama and involvement in the large-scale works that remind one of Karl Richter in his most durable organ-playing legacy on Archiv from the 1960s (funnily enough, until recently, only available in Japan). Richter’s captivating direction and intensity, complete with an almost hypnotic abandon, is a touch more measured in Suzuki’s hands but no less effectively communicated. The E minor Prelude and Fugue is the greatest tour de force here, and arguably Bach’s most ambitious single creation on the organ. Truly symphonic in grandeur, the work is harnessed impressively by this exceptionally experienced Bachian. Granite-like blocks of intensely chiselled harmonic progressions starting at 2’38” and building to the last at 5’48” are studiously laid down, as if for posterity, and yet there’s an underlying immediacy and restlessness in Suzuki’s rhetoric which leads to thrillingly choppy waters in the Fugue. Only Samuil Feinberg’s arrangement on the piano has lifted this piece completely out of its safe organ‑istic sphere – but I think it now has a partner in grandeur, flair and emotional risk. And it’s on the organ. Jonathan Freeman‑Attwood

WF Bach Keyboard Concertos – Falck41; Falck43; Falck45. Sinfonia, Falck67. Allegro e forte, Falck43 Il Convito / Maude Gratton hpd Mirare F MIR162 (74’ • DDD)

Bach’s eldest son, for whom the weight of his father’s inheritance –

emotionally and otherwise – contributed to his dispersing the chattels to mitigate his famously precarious professional existence, finds glistening and characterful advocacy here in Maude Gratton’s brilliantly projected recital with her one‑to-a-part string group, Il Convito. WF Bach often comes with a staple diet of reputational baggage (before one hears a note), but this programme challenges the notion that only the solo keyboard vignettes deserve a place in the repertoire.

From the beginning of the melancholic questing of the A minor Harpsichord

Masaaki Suzuki: a master of Bach at the harpsichord and organ, and on the podium

Concerto to the highly wrought pushmipullyu of the significant E minor work, a riveting concentration of harmonic and textural detail emerges. It’s a style that sails a course straight between his father’s motivic tautness and the dissenting galant of his peers, and it finds its best expression in the framing works, from his early and late periods (c1730 and 1770). What Gratton and Il Convito convey so persuasively in their assuaging and elegant performances is that, beyond Wilhelm Friedemann’s capricious figures, mental robustness and vulnerability cohabit as a kind of conceit. This is perfectly exemplified in the knotty Sinfonia, acting as one of two diverting links between the concertos: JSB’s muscularity at once yields to the fickle asides of CPE Bach but with Wilhelm Friedemann adding a dose of studied instability. Whether it’s really all conceit or partautobiography, the WFB experience is rarely relaxing. The layering of filigree, which doubtless encouraged Carl Zelter, Mendelssohn’s teacher, to judge his music as ‘petty and fussy’, is handled with exceptional sangfroid by Gratton and her colleagues, letting the music speak openly in her engaging and unforced solo playing, with the dark-hued strings responsive and mainly in tune.

Something never quite adds up in WF Bach. Paradoxically, intelligent recognition of this by performers leads to an idiosyncratic flair which is well worth exploring. Most beguiling is the little Minuet from the Sinfonia: a vignette, unsurprisingly. This is a release that tells us a little bit more about this talented but awkward offspring of a very great father. Jonathan Freeman-Attwood

Biber Rosary Sonatas Rachel Podger vn with Jonathan Manson vc, va da gamba David Miller archlute Marcin Swiatkiewicz harps, org Channel Classics F b Í CCSSA37315 (134’ • DDD/DSD)

How heartening it is to see new recordings of Biber continuing to come through, even well after the double boost they got from gramophone.co.uk gramophone.co.uk

GRAMOPHONE AWards 2016 5

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