on February 27, 2004
Bach's organ works place incredible demands on the performer, both physically (consider the endurance it takes to play the massive Toccata in F major), technically (the Trio Sonatas, among many others), and interpretationally. Peter Hurford triumphantly meets those demands in a spectacular set of recordings.
To those who are doubters: listen to the (in)famous Toccata and Fugue in D minor, that overplayed warhorse. Hurford brings to it an electricity that makes you feel you are hearing it for the first time again. He also has an amazing ear for registrations, one of the most underestimated difficulties of an organist's art, never wearying the ear, but using a wide palette of colors. [Bach himself was widely known for his innovative registrational practices. Contemporaries remarked that when he was testing organs he would pull combinations of stops that they were certain would sound badly together, only to find that he had created an entirely new sound. Thus, creative registrations should not offend purists in any way.]
Hurford's approach to these works obviously takes into consideration, but is certainly not bound by, historically informed performing practices. His phrasing is immaculate, and consistently interesting. In all, this is a stunning accomplishment.
GET THIS WHILE IT REMAINS AVAILABLE. The classical recording industry is in trouble, and the deletions axe is constantly falling. Large, expensive sets like this are sure to go. While the price itself appears high, it is really very reasonable, running under $8 per disc.
on November 19, 2003
I grew up on Helmut Walsha, then on to Ton Koopman on Novalis. Then I realised I ought to expand my collection. The box set arrived, and I cranked up the tubes a sat back. I have to say it was a shock. Initially I was a bit disappointed. The timing was quite different, the pieces I knew so well were lighter, more airy. I listened on and into the night, and found my initial reaction was unfounded. Peter Hurford has, I truly believe, got to the heart of the pieces, the detail is remarkable, the playing so natural, the emotion just pours out of the speakers.
Treble details flows out across the room like I have never heard, and the big pipes rumble beneath the set, and all retaining a remarkable church acoustic.
Forget all that has gone before, buy it and listen, but don't stay up to late!
on April 4, 2004
Peter Hurford's traversal of the entire organ literature for London Decca is truly one of the greatest recorded achievements. All of the performances in this seventeen-disc set are immaculately played and perfectly performed. His vision, technicality, and sensibility make him a sensitive and authoritative interpreter of J.S. Bach's organ works. The records are mostly digital, crystal clear, and quite powerful. Hurford's command of his technique is astounding. I cannot stress how important this set truly is. I HIGHLY recommend buying this compilation. At about 8 dollars a CD, this is most certainly a steal.