This is solid, heavy, monumental Bach. The Hungarian organist Joseph Kelemen adds weight to this programme of Bach works which are predominantly in C minor with registrations – fully detailed in the booklet – which give a thorough workout to the hefty 16ft Principal on the Hauptwerk, the chorus reeds and this historic organ’s decidedly meaty pleno.
This is an approach which works well enough for BWV546 with its massive, colonnaded Prelude and its ominously plodding Fugue, although one tires of quite such a thick sound with the inevitable 32ft pedal reed anchoring down the ﬁnal chords. There is also the occasional jarring of the organ’s Kellner/ Bach tuning to contend with.
The Fantasia, BWV562, is given a certain regal ﬂair through the searing chorus reeds and Kelemen’s stately tempo, while the stand-alone Fugue, BWV575, seems to try its hardest to sound more solemn than it really is. For the Passacaglia and Fugue, Kelemen restricts himself to a single registration, merely moving from Hauptwerk to Oberwerk for a single episode (4'55"-6'02"). This, coupled with an articulation which largely keeps the individual notes apart and cuts the lines up into unjoined-up dots of sound, does nothing to endear this performance to me.
The two preludes on Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr’ add a welcome touch of brightness and energy. The Ernst Concerto transcription is doubly welcome for being in a major key and focusing on the charming softer ﬂute stops of the 1737 Christoph Treutmann organ of the Grauhof Klosterkirche.
A change of tonal centre for the F minor Prelude continues the emphasis on lighter stops, with some delicate little ﬂutes exposed in the ﬁnal bars, but the weight comes back on with a vengeance in the Fugue.
If you like your Bach chiselled from granite and magisterially seated on a mighty pedestal, this disc is deﬁnitely for you. Marc Rochester