of J. S. Bach Organ Works, Vol. VI: Youthful
Organ, February-May, 2005, No 331
George Ritchie's survey
of J.S. Bach's organ output upon a superb range of North American
organs comes to an end with this the sixth volume, subtitled 'Youthful
Brilliance', played upon the Martin Pasi organ found at the St.
Cecilia Cathedral, Omaha, Nebraska and the C.B. Fisk organ in the
House of Hope Presbyterian Church, St. Paul, Minnesota.
The first disc shows off the Martin Pasi instrument,
which was developed with two temperaments to help widen its stylistic
scope and it is a tribute to the foresight of the maker that such
convincing Bach performances ensue. The crispness of the sound lends
clarity to Ritchie's stylistic detail, while his straightforward,
no nonsense approach to Bach should endear any listener. The disc
covers a range of Prelude and Fugues BWV 536, 535, 533, 549, and
531, in that order, which are interspersed with free form variations
and other singular preludes and fugues.
C.B. Fisk's instrument on the second disc is a completely
different kettle of fish, and awakens one to a keener sound that
achieves more in capturing the flavour of Bach. With a temperament
based on that of the Werkmeister II system of the German baroque,
fused with Fisk's close copying of instrumental aspects of this
period, such as the Brustwerk division, the casing of the Great
division and details based upon the work of Andreas and Gottfried
Silbermann, it takes little to convince me that this is the more
satisfying of the two discs. However, none of this detracts from
Ritchie's performance, whose exemplary playing throughout is that
part of the equation that convinces most. To seek out these fine
recordings, details can be found on Raven's website above.
American Organist, January, 2006
J. S. Bach Organ
Works, Volume 6. George Ritchie, organist; St. Cecilia
Cathedral, Omaha, NB (Martin Pasi & Associates Op. 14, 2003, III/74)
and House of Hope Presbyterian Church, St. Paul, MN (C. B. Fisk Op.
78, 1979, IV/71). Raven OAR-740 (2 CD set). firstname.lastname@example.org
The title of this 2 CD
set turns out to be dualistic; there is a great deal of youthful
brilliance in both the composition and the performance. According
to notes by Dr. Ritchie’s co-author, George Stauffer, these
“…twenty-two pieces…date mainly from Bach’s…early
years,” and “…compensate by imaginative gestures.”
No review can do this recording full justice without mentioning
the first class treatment it received in the creation. The engineer
is Ed Kelly, who deserves more praise for his organ recordings for
Raven and other labels than he ever gets. Ritchie chose two majestic
instruments in two extremely sympathetic settings, and he performs
flawlessly. Pasi’s Op. 14 is in a voluminous building and
in a commanding position; if anything, it is almost too resonant.
Dr. Ritchie, however, manages his registrations (which are provided
in full in the accompanying booklet) to allow for the full bloom
and mix of the instrument. Kevin Vogt’s notes on the Pasi
instrument illuminate that “…the organ is in effect
two organs, in which the dual-tempered stops share 1/3 of their
pipes.” Of course, (literally) in George Ritchie’s skilled
hands, every ornament is perfectly executed. Indeed, one can imagine
that every single sixteenth note has been considered given the consistency
in both tempi and articulation. The pieces recorded are “…free
works – that is, pieces not based on …hymn tunes –
and chorale preludes.” They are mixed for maximum effect,
with more introspective works interspersed among the more grandiose
toccatas, passacaglias and fugues much as one might in a concert.
Stauffer’s notes are erudite, comprehensive and yet enviably
readable. There is a great deal of scholarly effort in them; they
will please both the novice and the professional. The massive, groundbreaking
Fisk has stood the test of time easily, and is fluent with the young
Bach’s exuberance. There is so much to compliment in so little
space here that the effort quickly becomes futile; superlatives
exhaust themselves. That this is a fitting conclusion to the previous
five volumes is too slight praise. Even the price is outstanding.
Everything about this production exhibits the highest quality. It
is a reference that should be in every collection. When the need
is to hear Bach played to perfection, this set should be at hand.
Impossible to recommend highly enough!