Saturday 16 May 2015

A first rate Bach recital from organist Luca Guglielmi that includes works from the collections of Friedrich Wilhelm Rust and Padre Giovanni Battista Martini on a new release from Vivat

The Vivat home page refers to their ‘recordings of exceptional artistic merit and outstanding technical quality.’ On the evidence of the releases I have heard so far, they are more than living up to expectation.

Their latest release brings an outstanding organist, Luca Guglielmi  in works by Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) some of which formed part of the collection of Friedrich Wilhelm Rust (1739-1796) and Padre Giovanni Battista Martini (1706-1784) entitled Bach in Montecassino

Friedrich Wilhelm Rust visited the Abbey of Montecassino  in 1766 where he played the organ and presented the Abbey’s organist, Padre Giovanni Battista Martini, with a number of priceless manuscripts from his collection of Bach’s compositions. Rust’s grandson, Wilhelm Rust was among the most important contributors to the Bach-Gesellschaft .

Sadly the Abbey of Montecassino came under tremendous bombardment during the Battle of Montecassino in 1944. The loss of life was massive with the Allies losing 55,000 soldiers and an estimated 20,000 killed and wounded German soldiers.

Prior to the start of the Battle, German officer Captain Maximilian Becker and Austrian officer Lieutenant Colonel Julius Schlegel had arranged for the majority of the abbey's artefacts, library archives and documents, and numerous other priceless treasures to be moved for safe-keeping at the Vatican City in Rome. After the war Abbot Ildefonso Rea headed the project to rebuild Montecassino in all its former glory as well as repatriate all the valuables and documents that had been held at the Vatican during the war. The rebuilt abbey was re-consecrated in 1964 by Pope Paul VI.

The organ of the Abbey of Montecassino, built in 1696 by Cesare Catarinozzi, that Padre Martini and Friedrich Wilhelm Rust would have played was, of course, destroyed.

For this recording, presenting works by Bach that were circulating in Italy around the decade of 1760-1770 that could well have been performed in the Abbey Church when Rust visited, Luca Guglielmi plays the organ of Chiesa di San Nicolao, Alice Castello, Italy built by Michele Ramasco in 1749 and Giovanni and Giacinto Bruna in 1802. It was restored by Italo Marzi and Sons in 1999-2000.

Bach’s Fantasia Chromatica in D minor, BWV 903a brings a fine fluency from Luca Guglielmi with a lovely flexibility of tempo as the music rushes forward. There is some terrific playing here, beautifully phrased with the organ of Chiesa di San Nicolao proving a fine choice.

Guglielmi sets a fine pace in Fuga sopra il Magnificat in D minor, BWV 733, allowing all Bach’s musical lines to be revealed as this fine fugue unfolds.

Duetto I in E minor, BWV 802 has a lovely choice of registration bringing a fine texture, with Guglielmi finding his way beautifully around all of Bach’s little twists and turns. The Duetto II in F major, BWV 803 is beautifully done, combining flair, fluency and dexterity. Again Guglielmi finds just the right registration, tempi and, most importantly, flow in the beautifully played Duetto III in G major, BWV 804 before Duetto IV in A minor, BWV 805 rises up brilliantly, with this organist pushing the music nicely forward, allowing every line to unfold with a feeling of momentum.

Guglielmi brings a suitable gravity to the opening of Fantasia pro Organo in C minor, BWV 537/1 providing playing of fine transparency with some particularly magical moments. There is a glorious Chorale Prelude Jesu, meine Freude, BWV 753 showing this organ off so well before the Fantasia super Jesu, meine Freude, BWV 713 where again the pacing is just right, never hurried, a natural outpouring of Bach’s invention with fine choice of registration and a lovely coda.

The Chorale prelude Wenn wir in höchsten Nöten, BWV 668a also receives a rather magical performance with a lovely gentle opening; this organist bringing a fine sensitivity with a restrained, gentle forward flow.

The Preludio di Bach in C per il Padre Martini, BWV 870b has a magnificent opening again with such a fine, flexible tempo, bringing so many colours and textures from the San Nicolao organ.

The lovely little Kyrie, Gott Vater in Ewigkeit, BWV 672 is revealed here as a little gem whilst the equally attractive Christe, aller Welt Trost, BWV673 moves ahead with a lovely forward flow. The Kyrie, Gott Heiliger Geist, BWV 674 is beautifully paced, finely transparent before the (Gloria) Allein Gott in der Höh’ sei Ehr’, BWV 675 which brings some lovely little phrases revealing Bach’s fine invention, this organist knowing just how to lift the smallest piece and reveal something special.

The (Credo) Fughetta super Wir glauben all’ an einen Gott, BWV 681 brings some terrific textures as Guglielmi brilliantly tackles Bach’s intricate phrases before the (Pater noster) Vater unser im Himmelreich, BWV 683 that opens with a clear penetrating flauto note before broadening out with lovely textures. Bach’s (De profundis) Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir, BWV 687 brings a more stately pace again with a lovely choice of registration bringing much clarity combined with fine textures and developing wonderfully throughout.

There is a lovely light textured little Fuga di Bach in C per il Padre Martini, BWV 846/2 given such a captivating performance before the concluding Fantasia und Fuga, BWV 904 where Luca Guglielmi reveals a gentle Fantasia before leading to a very fine Fugue, beautifully paced and phrased, developing wonderfully, making a fine conclusion to this disc.

Luca Guglielmi is a very fine organist indeed. By choosing works by Bach that have a connection through Friedrich Wilhelm Rust, Padre Martini and the Abbey of Montecassino he brings together a fascinating collection of organ pieces.

Guglielmi receives a very fine recording that brings a great clarity to the music as well as subtly revealing the pedal lines.

The booklet and presentation are well up to Vivat’s usual very high standards with excellent notes from the organist and a full organ specification.

All in all, this makes for a first rate Bach recital. 

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