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'Stephen Farr sets a magisterial tone at the outset in the huge opening Praeludium, which combines French overture and Italian concerto style.'
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Stephen Farr - J.S. Bach: Clavier-Übung III - Gramophone

01 October 2013
Malcolm Riley

Farr puts Trinity's Metzler organ centre-stage again.

On the title-page to this, the only one of his publications designated specifically for the organ, Bach dedicates its contents to ‘music lovers, for the recreation of their spirits'. That which was true in 1739 is equally valid today. This magnificent new recording, made on one of England's finest Baroque-style instruments, the 1975 Metzler in the Chapel of Trinity College, Cambridge, is a veritable feast, both artistically as well as sonically. The Keyboard Exercise, as Bach termed it, is often called the ‘German Organ Mass'. It is the ideal Baroque organ recital, a complete repast in its own right, a summary not only of older musical styles but also of Rococo and galant flavours, though refined through German, French and Italian accents. It is performed here in its entirety, including the four duets which precede the final ‘St Anne' Fugue. They are a quirky quartet, written in a two-part texture and veering from the carefree to the heavily chromatic.

From the opening chords of the French ouverture-style Praeludium, one can simply relax and enjoy Farr's rock-steady rhythmic playing, crisp articulation and commanding overview. His approach is refreshingly unfussy and quirk-free, and he draws on an unfailingly interesting palette of tonal colours. Highlights abound among the 21-chorale preludes; particularly moving is the breathtaking Lord's Prayer setting (of diploma recitals' blessed memory) BWV682. In a strong field this performance must be in the top three.

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