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Franz Hauk at Ingolstadt Münster
Guild Music GMCD 7217

Toccata and Fuge in d minor, BWV 565, An Wasserflüssen Babylon, BWV 653b; Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C, BWV 564; Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar, BWV 607; Der Tag, der is so freudenreich, BWV 605; In dulci jubilo, BWV 608; Fantasia and Fugue in g minor, BWV 542; Erschienen ist der herrliche Tag, BWV 629; Toccata and Fugue in F major, BWV 540; Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland, BWV 659; Prelude and Fugue in D major, BWV 532; Recorded 1995; TPT: 74'45

Now that 2000 is over, we can sit back, relax and enjoy Bach again, safe in the knowledge that the overkill of the last twelve months is not likely to recur for the next 84 years. By that time, with a little luck, not only will there be a whole new breed performers to start the ball rolling again, but also a whole new breed of reviewers to cope with it. Yet it seems a shame that the release of this recording of Bach organ music, performed by Franz Hauk on the Klais instrument at Ingolstadt Münster, has been mistimed, since this is one of the more interesting releases of the last twelve months and is certainly worth a listening.

There is no denying Hauk's ability as a performer: his technique is both steely efficient and clean, and his masculine, almost driven sense of rhythm is a welcome change from some of the more recent recordings of Bach's organ music. And therein lies the only reservation I have about the disc, since most of the large-scale works are approached from the fast side. Take, for instance, the g minor fantasia and fugue, which he manages to polish off in a mere eleven and a half minutes, a timing comparable only with Simon Preston's somewhat quirky performance on DG: the playing is articulate and crisp, and although the underlying pulse is noticeable in the fantasia, there remains a beautifully- judged sense of freedom. The fugue, on the other hand, is simply too fast for comfort: sense of line becomes somewhat lost in the lavish acoustic of Ingolstadt Münster, and the whole performance is saved only by the close recording proximity. Despite this drawback, there are some real gems on this disc, especially in the slower movements and chorale preludes: the siciliano-like middle movement of the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C, for example, is almost Schweitzerian in its musicality. It is rich in affekt, yet somehow manages to remain aloof from over-sentimentality, an approach that is also found in the three Orgel-Büchlein chorales, Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar, Der Tag, der is so freudenreich and In dulci jubilo. However, if you want to hear some really superb playing, listen to the performance of Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (BWV 659): again one cannot commend Hauk highly enough for his ability to play with a wonderful of flexibility, whilst retaining that all-important underlying pulse and sense of structure.

Registrations are perhaps a little too imaginative at times and I do have reservations about making manual changes, as, for example, in the g minor fantasia or at the end of the second movement of the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue. Although the both the recording quality and mastering are of the highest order, the close proximity of the microphones to the organ does slightly over-emphasise some of the upper work, especially a rather sharp and, in this instance, grating Acuta, which I found a constant bug-bear in the plenum ensemble. Overall, however, this is an exciting and worthwhile release: Hauk's playing is flexible, exciting and although a little fast at times, he manages to shed new light on some old 'chestnuts', and for no other reason than this, it is a recommended purchase.

John Woodford  

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