Reincken: Complete Harpsichord and Organ Music

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Composer: Johann Adam Reincken
Artists: Simone Stella harpsichord & organ
In 1701 a young Johann Sebastian Bach walked the 30 miles from Lunenburg to Hamburg to hear Johann Adam Reincken play the organ. Such dedication on the former’s part highlights the great esteem with which this latter composer, who was also a friend of Buxtehude (the other highest authority on the organ at that time) – was held. With this release, Baroque keyboard aficionados have the rare opportunity to delve into his complete music for keyboard, which unsurprisingly dominates the Dutchman’s total output.

Much of the set is given over to the suites, the dominant genre within Reincken’s extant works for harpsichord, whose style reveals a French influence. The variations were also composed for this instrument (and offer the performer a chance to explore in depth the different timbres of the various registers), but other pieces within the collection are not so clear-cut from a ‘medium’ point of view – the more ‘neutral’ style of the toccatas and G minor fugue means that they are just as playable on the organ. In this recording, the tonal range of the pieces has been compared in order elucidate which instruments they were composed for – the chorale fantasias, for example, seem to be tailored to Reincken’s organ of St Catharine’s in Hamburg, as their writing respects the limits of that instrument. At 327 bars, the first of these, ‘An Wasserflüssen Babylon’, is the lengthiest and most important of the surviving chorale fantasias of the north German school. With its wealth of figures and complex harmonies, its stylistic variety and cleverly planned layout, it offers a genuine compendium of Hamburg’s organ art.

Exposing the artistic merit of this musical corpus is the esteemed Italian keyboardist Simone Stella, whose brilliant solo career has led him to record the complete harpsichord and organ works of Dietrich Buxtehude (94422) and Georg Böhm (94612), among others. Priced at a bargain €6.60, this release is a must-have for the Baroque keyboard enthusiast – indeed, a veritable treasure trove for those wishing to explore the richness of style that is the north-German Baroque school.

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