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GRAMOPHONE ( 10/ 2019)
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Reviewer: Jonathan Freeman-Attwood

If Masaaki Suzuki’s sacred cantata series was necessarily chronological, clearly evident in this new journey – on the basis of the three volumes so far – is how the architecture of the programming is built on narratives amalgamating all of Bach’s organ-writing genres: the stylus phantasticus of preludes, toccatas, fantasias and fugues intersecting closely with all forms of chorale preludes, variations and miscellany.

In this regard, Suzuki is a class act in every component of his planning. All roads lead to the great Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor but we reach this peak through both a subtle manipulation of the magnetic tonal worlds of C major and C minor, and striking contrasts of quasi-juvenilia (for example, the freewheeling and surging peels of the early Böhm-inspired Prelude and Fugue in C) and mature masterpieces – of which the equivalent work in C minor allows us the first gaze towards the promised land of the Passacaglia.

Yet Suzuki’s greatest challenge lies in taming the remarkably evergreen and resourceful Silbermann organ in Freiberg Cathedral. He draws on all its inherent glories: the dazzling couplers, the earthy French reeds, luminous flutes and those specifically German concentrated chests of projected sound and hearty, marauding bass lines. Suzuki’s skill in imaginative registration is heard to beautiful effect in the chorale partita (a genre of variation for which Bach wrote three distinguished examples) Ach was soll ich Sünder machen. That the work’s authenticity is questionable matters not a jot.

Likewise, Suzuki brings wonderful emollience to the first chorale on ‘Herr Jesu Christ’ (BWV709) but it’s the big C minor works that bring aspirational zeal to this volume. The Prelude and Fugue is fully charged with nervous energy and inexorable purpose, while the Passacaglia is a masterclass in keeping powder dry, knowing when to light the various fuses and being infectiously consequential. For all Bach lovers, not just organists!

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