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J.S. Bach Organ Sonatas

22/08/2009
The Courier Mail (Australia)
Patricia Kelly

Brisbane organist Christopher Wrench has performed on many European organs, as student and as recitalist, so when he discovered the Garrison Church organ in Copenhagen in 1998, he felt that this instrument, an historical reconstruction by Carsten Lund of the 1724 organ by Lambert Daniel Kastens, would be perfect for a recording of the six organ sonatas of J. S. Bach. Since this specialist kind of program fits the ethos of Melbourne recording label Melba, Wrench was able to find acceptance there for his wish to record these intriguing little masterpieces of ‘Bach’s supreme contrapuntal genius.’

Wrench chooses his registrations carefully, and given the ‘tonal freshness’ and agility of the mechanism he found on the Lund instrument, he set up a varied range of moods for the six pieces. Each speaks with a different voice according to the construction of the material, and each is informed by Wrench’s scholarship and affinity with the demands of the contrapuntal style where hands and feet are equal partners in articulating the interweaving themes and harmonies. The contrast achieved between the contemplative middle movements and the lively outer sections is not simply to do with tempi. It is the vitality Wrench brings to the music when the pace quickens, and the technical dexterity that allows him to expand the expressive range, even in quiet moments, to its fullest capacity. His playing is a judicious mix of sensitivity and academic application to this masterful material.