Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Reviews for the Complete Organ Works of Buxtehude

"Audiophile Best Find" of 2007, "Classical Lost and Found (

"Davidsson is a very musical player with a virtuosic flair well suited to this music. The phrasing in the chorale preludes is exquisitely sensitive. His interpretation of the Passacaglia is one of the best I’ve heard. This is an outstanding recording from every point of view. Bravo!"
American Record Guide

STAR RECORDING (Record of the month)
(review of both Volumes 1 and 2)

"It is difficult to know where to begin with these four CDs. This is a monumental recording in all sorts of ways. It is special because of the mean-tone tuning and the effect that this has on the music and the way it sounds. While we cannot be sure how the music would have sounded originally, the Baroque Organ project led by GOArt and sited in the Örgryte nya kyrka has done so much to foster interest in, and knowledge of, organ building at the time. It is good that we now have these recordings so that we can hear for ourselves.

There are some delicious sounds throughout – partly the registers, partly the tuning – often challenging the listener, especially when the choice of stops is not what we might think of today – as for example playing fugues on reed stops in a kind of Grand Jeu. But it is the vast range of colour that is most impressive, including a delightful cymbelstern. The CDs use the ULSI recording technique, which certainly gives the listener a feeling of intimacy and contact with player and instrument and adds much to the overall quality of the recordings.

The second two CD set focusses on music which JS Bach and his circle studied, shared and admired. There is thus an added fascination when listening to these pieces for the insight that they give with regard to later organ music.

Hans Davidsson – such a fine player, especially in this context – is to be congratulated, as are all the team involved. The sleeve notes are full and well produced, though there is also a significant amount of additional material, including notes on each piece and a complete listing of all registrations used at These CDs are most highly recommended, and have to be a star recording of star recordings as far as I am concerned; they are an absolute must to buy." —The Organ (UK)

Classical Lost and Found:

"Strange and wondrous sounding things happen when you hear early Baroque organ music performed on a mean-tone tempered instrument like the one here. That's because this method of tuning produces pure major thirds, which were all the rage in Dieterich Buxtehude's day (1637-1707) as they were thought to be the musical equivalent of "heavenly harmony." Not only that, but they intensify the contrast between consonances and dissonances in music thereby giving it greater emotional impact. So it's quite likely this is what you would have heard at the prestigious St. Mary's Church in Lubeck, Germany, when the composer was organist there. However, these "heavenly thirds" come at a cost, because pieces in certain keys can sound harsh or even dissonant on mean-tone instruments. So steps must be taken to ameliorate these incompatibilities. The most radical solution is to transpose the work in question to a more listener-friendly key, and in Buxtehude’s day organists did this all the time. Besides transposition though, there are several other ways to accomplish this. For instance, the organ for this recording has additional sub-semitone black keys and pedals just for this purpose (see the excellent album notes for an explanation and picture of them). These are necessitated by the fact that accidentals like d-sharp and e-flat, which are the same identical note and represented by just one black key on a conventionally tuned instrument, must take on slightly different pitches on a mean-tone one in order to minimize the problems mentioned above. Additionally the performer can downplay dissonant notes by shortening their length, camouflaging them with ornaments and/or even opting for leaner registrations that make them less apparent.

The highly versatile and talented soloist here, Hans Davidsson, uses every trick at his disposal to come up with some of the most colorful Baroque music that ever emanated from an organ pipe. As a matter of fact, after you've heard this album, Buxtehude on a conventionally tuned instrument comes off sounding rather drab! The one Davidsson plays here is located in Gothenberg, Sweden and it’s absolutely spectacular. That’s because it’s a modern day synthesis of the finest North German Baroque instruments from such builders as the great Arp Schnitger. Not only that, but this is one of the best sounding recordings of "The Pope of Instruments" to come along in some time. It utilizes Erik Sikkema's new ULSI recording technology, which does for church spaces what Ray Kimber's IsoMike does for the concert hall (see the 17 February 2007 newsletter). Accordingly, audiophiles who love organ music must have this release, and are encouraged to read about ULSI. (click here for details)

Musically, artistically and sonically producer Roger Sherman has a “Triple Crown” winner with this, the first of three albums from Loft Recordings devoted to the composer's complete organ works a la mean-tone. This one contains all of his better known ones, so it's perfect for those wanting a single highlights album. However, a word of warning, after you hear it, you may well find "you can't eat just one!" Those desiring more detailed information about what’s included can find it on the new, beautifully appointed Gothic Web Site."

-- Bob McQuiston, Classical Lost and Found (

Buxtehude Organ Works—Hans Davidsson (7 CDs total)

Volume 1: Buxtehude and the Mean-Tone Organ (2 CDs)
Volume 2: The Bach Perspective (2 CDs)
Volume 3: Buxtehude and the Schnitger Organ (3 CDs)

North German Baroque Organ, Gothenburg, Sweden

Recent research shows that Buxtehude had only mean-tone organs at his disposal during his life. Although there are many good recordings on well-tempered organs (including some antiques), performing these works on mean-tone instruments requires both a radical re-assessment of traditional performance ideas and a large and extraordinary organ. Hans Davidsson is the ideal performer for this task, and he plays the huge “North German Baroque Organ” of Gothenburg, Sweden. The complete organ works are recorded here in three volumes totaling seven compact discs.

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