J. S. BACH Organ Works – Robert Clark at the Brombaugh organ of First Presbyterian Church, Springfield, IL = Arsis Audio

by | Apr 17, 2006 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

J. S. BACH Organ Works – Robert Clark at the Brombaugh organ of First Presbyterian Church, Springfield, IL = Concerto in A Minor after Vivaldi; Trio Sonata No. 4 in E Minor; Toccata, Adagio & Fugue in C Major; Six Schübler Chorales; Toccata & Fugue in F Major; Passacaglia in C Minor; Trio Sonata no. 3 in D Minor; Pastorella in F Major; Five Chorales from “The Great Eighteen;” Piéce d’Orgue – Arsis Audio Multichannel SACD (2 discs) 405, Disc 1 – 1:10:46, Disc 2 – 1:15:19 *** 1/2:

I believe this is the first SACD release for the Boston-based label, and a very impressive debut it is. Robert Clark is one of the nation’s most important organists and pedagogue, having taught at the University of Michigan and Arizona State, concertised in Europe and the U.S., and co-edited a new edition of Bach’s Organ Book. The recording was made by a specialist in pipe organ recording brought in from the UK and it was direct to 24-bit digital.  The new pipe organ was built and installed in 2004 and has 3250 pipes on 49 different registers comprised of 70 ranks. It’s complete list of pipes is in the note booklet and in addition there is a listing of every single registration used in each of the selections on the two discs.  (Much of it is Greek to me but it will surely be of interest to pipe organ mavens.) The church itself is known as The Lincoln Church because the Lincoln family worshipped there (in a previous building) from 1850.

The program is an excellent mix of the many Bach works for the king of instruments, and what struck me initially about it was the total absence of the overplayed Toccata and Fugue in D Minor.  Thank you!   I also liked the opening selection – one of my personal favorite Bach organ works – the exciting transcription of Vivaldi A minor Concerto. The rich tone of this instrument is beautifully appropriate for this and all the works, and the complete five-channel audio does a successful job of portraying the spatial separation of some of the ranks of pipes and a feeling for the church’s interior ambiance.  However, not being a huge cathedral, the reverb time is not extended, and without use of the LFE channel there is not the deepest bass extension heard on some other pipe organ SACDs.  The Organ Treasures SACD on Opus 3, for example, is 4.1 channel even though that label does not normally employ the LFE channel on its recordings, feeling that both it and the center channel are not important for music in surround. However, it was felt the deepest notes of the pipe organ were appropriate for use of the .1 channel. All frequencies below 60 Hz are then directed to this channel.

– John Sunier

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