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compact disc reviews UK 4 stars

November 15, 2021

Martin Clarke

6 Fugues on B-A-C-H, Op.60;Studien für denPedal-Flügel,Op.56
Jens E. Christiansen plays the organ in Vor Frelsers Kirke, Copenhagen

Schumann’s works for organ and pedal-piano have become staples of the repertoire, not least for their tribute to the contrapuntal heritage of the 18th century, and the works of Bach in particular. That legacy lies behind this disc, and is explored at some length in an introductory essay in the liner notes by Svend Ravnkilde. The programming here is very effective, with the studies interspersing pairs of fugues and providing variety in character and texture. Playing each set in order, meanwhile, also offers coherence, not least in the close relationship between the first two fugues, and the vigorous conclusion of fugue six. Christiansen’s playing throughout is precise and highly engaging; tempi are well chosen, registrations are always clear, and changes are handled seamlessly. The elasticity of the melodic playing in study four is especially enjoyable, while the large scale of the final double fugue, with its gradual increase in energy and tension is finely handled.
Throughout, the articulation is very well judged in relation to the acoustic, creating performances that are clear and purposeful; this is especially evident in the B minor study, in which a fairly leisurely tempo and colourful registration combine to create an atmosphere of relaxed indulgence. The organ is well suited to this repertoire, with finely lended chorus work and rich, powerful reeds that are never overbearing. The liner notes are rather general in nature; the introductory essay makes little mention of the pieces themselves, while the biographical account of Schumann also does not really address these compositions. Martin Clarke, Compact Disc Reviews, 4 Stars, December 2021