French Baroque organ music isn’t altogether a world apart, despite its conventions and the terminology which describes them, for you can hear how close JS Bach came to it in Nicolas de Grigny’s Pange lingua on track 5 of this disc. Unfortunately, it’s hard to recreate the right sounds on most British organs, and this recording was made on the larger of two instruments completed in 1766 by Karl Joseph Riepp in Ottobeuren Abbey. It’s a ravishing thing – just hear the full chorus of principal stops at the start of Marchand’s Suite on track 7, and the gentle, slightly husky eight-foot sound in the fifth movement. What hits you first, if you listen through the whole disc, are the strong reeds and cornet stops in François Couperin’sRead more Offertoire, with stately and lively sections alternating. With its piquant dissonances and melancholy, the tendency of the bass to fall in some passages, Couperin bears out the cliché that there is no beauty without pain. In the variations on carol tunes by Michel Corrette, you hear the acoustic of the Abbey much more, because the registration, though colourfully varied, is lighter. Balbastre’s dance pieces are the latest items and take us into a less specialised, though also a less interesting world.
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