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CPO’s mammoth survey of Pachelbel’s complete organ works continues and, much like its predecessors, one is sometimes glad that the variety of players and instruments keeps the listener engaged. The many Magnificat fugues, not to mention the formulaic pedal-point toccatas, might be considered of limited musical interest, but do provide the opportunity to show off many tonal colours of the organs used. And, once again, those organs remind us how little we know of the historic instruments in the central German traditions. Tobias Trost, well-known for his organs at Waltershausen and Altenburg, is here represented by a II/26 (actually 22 plus four transmissions) instrument in Großengottern, whose lively sound in intimate acoustics (high in the gallery of a village church), with flues rich in overtones and initial speech, presents a convincing impression of a well-preserved sound-picture. A blunder by CPO, however, illustrates not the Trost organ, as captioned, but the 1842 Hesse instrument in the neighbouring church of St Martini. Michael Bellotti’s generally straightforward but sensitive playing is well attuned to both music and organ; of particular interest is his own embellishment of the mournful Ciaccona in A minor, which survives only as a fragment.

Altogether more mercurial is the playing of Christian Schmitt, playing on a pair of organs in Rheinau featured on previous volumes. The larger of the two, built in 1715 by Johann Christoph Leu – his only surviving instrument – is especially notable for its variety of flutes, extending to 1fton all three manuals. Schmitt uses it imaginatively in several chorale-based fughettas and the beautiful Arietta and Variations in F major. The organ’s aristocratic grandeur (the pedal reeds are no shrinking violets) contrasts with the intimate single-manual Chororgel of 1710/1746 heard, among other things, in a pair of doubtful fughettas, one a further completion by Michael Bellotti. Schmitt also performs on a substantial (III/43) reconstruction by Eule of a Johannes Creutzberg organ of 1735 in Duderstadt, whose glorious plenum is heard in one of Pachelbel’s more inspired choral settings: a substantial fugue on Ein feste Burg. A miniature, though doubtful, Prelude & Fugue in A major, meanwhile, demonstrates a particularly enigmatic 4ft flute.

The 1735 Volckland organ in Erfurt, meanwhile, with its monumental case (altogether more convincing than that at Duderstadt), was restored by Schuke (Potsdam) between 2000 and 2003. Especially notable is the variety of 8ft colour, the V.d. gamba of the Hauptwerk in particular bearing a distinctive initial sound, akin to bow striking string. James David Christie’s programme includes four chorale partitas. His interpretation of the famous F minor Ciaccona using only juxtaposed 8ftflue stops is especially attractive, drawing the third disc to a fitting conclusion.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica

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