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This CD and DVD pairing is from the recording of a live concert in the series at Souvigny featuring the famous 1783 Clicquot organ. The sleeve notes go into great detail about the differences between the French classical organ and that of Bach, explaining why most of Bach’s organ music cannot be played on such an instrument. The Goldberg Variations are without doubt intended for a two-manual harpsichord, and this arrangement, presumably by Alard himself, begs quite a few questions. The Aria on which the work is based is presented as a solo with a curiously disjointed accompaniment between left hand and pedal – why not play it as Bach wrote it simply on one manual? Variations 14 and 28 have some of the more complex textures (including the continuous ‘trill’ figurations of 28) rewritten and simplified. The nature of this organ encourages much more use of the reed and tierce based registrations than is really pleasant in music which ideally needs transparency, and Alard is, I think, a finer player than this recording shows. The DVD has nothing more on it than the concert as on the CD, and the filming is purely in the organ loft and inside the organ the majority of the time – not visually very exciting, and surprising that Souvigny hasn’t taken the opportunity to provide more information and film about the organ on the DVD. Sleeve note texts are only in French, and there are no timings given. Altogether rather a disappointment.

DOUGLAS HOLLICK Read the full review on Agora Classica

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