Alexander Koschel

The Organ of the Castle Church in Weißenfels

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On Fagott's disc Die Orgel der Schlosskirche in Weißenfels, Alexander Koschel plays an organ at the Lutheran Schlosskirche in Weissenfels, which is located in Saxony-Anhalt in eastern central Germany. Built in 1673, this is a significant organ as it was built by the great Baroque organ builder Christian Förner and was once regularly played by Johann Sebastian Bach, who is said to have written his Toccata in F major, BWV 540/1 for it. Unfortunately, none of Förner's instruments has survived in its original aspect; this organ suffered heavy damage in the early nineteenth century owing to the castle church being used as a hospital, and later, barracks for the military; it was replaced altogether in 1839. It wasn't until 1985 that attempts were made to take this organ back to the state where it was in 1683; adjustments to it are ongoing, with a major retrofit and new temperament added in 2000.

Alexander Koschel is the regular organist at the Schlosskirche and clearly understands the instrument's capabilities. The program is a wide-ranging one, beginning with an instrumental intabulation of Heinrich Isaac's familiar Innsbruck, ich muss dich lassen and wrapping up with Bach's A minor solo concerto after Vivaldi along with a couple of other short pieces along the way. It is perhaps a bit too wide ranging; certainly the seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century literature seems a better fit for this instrument than the pieces from the Susanne von Soldt manuscript. Moreover, the recording is rather distant; particularly during Bach's chorale prelude on Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele one wants more organ and a little less of the air around it. Koschel, however, is a fine player -- his reading of Schmücke dich and the Tunder Praeludium are both notable highlights - and this organ does sound like a Baroque instrument of the first class. Perhaps Christian Förner's voice as organ builder, seemingly stilled by bombing raids, carelessness, and the ravages of time, speaks to us again through this rebuilt instrument.

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