Franz Raml

Bach: Orgel Werke

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Old technology meets modern technology on this release from Germany's Oehms label, a top-notch Bach organ recording equally worth the consideration of the first-timer or those with large Bach collections. Featured is one of the monuments of central German organ-building, the Silbermann Organ at the Catholic Hofkirche in Dresden. The organ was dismantled during World War II but subsequently rebuilt and later thoroughly restored. It's a magnificent beast, with plenty of power and some unusual, highly evocative tone colors in the quieter registrations. All the detail is picked up by the trademark Oehms engineering, and the rumbling lower end of the pedal gamut will shake up your entire neighborhood if you want to put out the money for the stereo equipment. But none of this would mean much without a sensitive player and a well-chosen program, and German organist Franz Raml delivers on both counts. Large, well-known works bookend more specialized facets of the Bach organ repertory, with the opening Fantasia and Fugue in G minor, BWV 542, seizing the listener's attention; the Concerto in C major for organ, BWV 594, giving an almost uncanny feel for Bach's thought processes as he adapted Vivaldi's orchestral language for the organ; and the chorale Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ, BWV 604, from the Orgelbüchlein, immersing the hearer in some of the more recondite explorations of Bach's genius. The best, however, is saved for last. Raml's performance of the mighty Passacaglia, BWV 582, is stand-up-and-cheer superlative (or would be if it hadn't been made in a church). The work draws on all the instrument's resources, and in Raml's hands it builds in excitement until the contrapuntal complications at the end, almost unthinkable in a passacaglia up to that point, seem to explode out of the growing intensity of textural complication. Quite simply, a superb single-disc Bach organ release.

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