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Reviews: Bach: Organ music - Karl Richter

Reviews: 1

Review by Joseph Ponessa March 1, 2014 (5 of 5 found this review helpful)
In February of 1979, Karl Richter traveled to Japan and gave at least two concerts open to the general public and also broadcast. The radio company paid for his airfare and expense, and then retained rights to the recording, as the system worked and still works in Japan. Although Richter had celebrated his 52nd birthday a few months before, he was suffering from health problems, no doubt an onset of the cardiac condition that would lead to his sudden and premature demise exactly two years later.
On the 19th of the month, Richter gave a performance of the Goldberg Variations on a Neupert "Bach Model" harpsichord--that concert has been released on SACD by Tokyo FM, but it is getting hard to find. I have not heard this, but one who has heard it commented that Richter made some mistakes, but used them to improvise through some of the variations. Maybe he had jetlag.
On the 23rd of the month, Richter was apparently feeling better when he gave a Bach recital at St Mary's Cathedral in Tokyo. Their organ, which had been built when the church was finished in 1964, had 3200 pipes, and used an electrical system to connect them to the keyboard. That organ no longer exists, dismantled as it was in 2003 to make way for a new Mascioni organ modeled on the 16th century mechanical instrument at the Church of San Maurizio in Milano. The old organ developed problems with some of its irreplaceable electrical parts, but when Richter was there the instrument responded well to his virtuosity. The radio technicians did a marvelous job of recording the concert, in a robust analog stereo with a fine sense of the ambient space. TDK released the recording on CD, and now Tokyo FM have issued the SACD release.
Richter plays:
BWV 572 Fantasia in G-major
BWV 548 Prelude and Fugue in e-minor
BWV 654 Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele
BWV 544 Prelude in b-minor (without the accompanying Fugue)
BWV 650 Kommst du nun Jesu, vom Himmel
BWV 540 Toccata and Fugue in F-major
BWV 564 Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C-major (Richter's first recording of this piece)
This SACD disc is a finer showcase of Richter's talent in the Bach organ repertory than any of the several CD editions I have owned, including the SHM-CD release of Toccatas. Altus Music did the mastering for King International. The high-resolution SACD sound shows off Richter's signal command of organ registrations. He must have spent several days after the Goldberg concert getting the organ ready for this performance. The nostalgia value of this disc is great, because this organ and this organist are no more. The organ functioned for forty years; the organist lived for fifty-four. This disc confirms the reputation of them both.

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