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Classical reviews.

Byline: Christopher Morley

PETER KING Organ of Bath Abbey (Priory): Bath Abbey organist Peter King, who, together with Thomas Trotter, did so much to demonstrate Symphony Hall's magnificent new Klais organ during its inaugural weekend in October, here shows off his own splendid intrument from the same great firm of German organ-builders.

The Klais organ at Bath Abbey was built into an existing case in 1997, and King described it to me with great enthusiasm during the Symphony Organ weekend. In this well-chosen recital King includes some of the pieces he used to demonstrate the Birmingham instrument, including Saint-Saens' delightful Fantaisie in D-flat, and some powerful Buxtehude, the Bath Abbey acoustic responding willingly to the organ's fruity, penetrating bass and tonal versatility.

A resourceful ending to this generous collection comes with Petr Eben's Hommage a Dietrich Buxtehude, written to celebrate the German composer's 350th birthday in 1987, and based entirely on motives from the two Buxtehude works heard earlier. HHHH

BACH Violin Sonatas (Gaudeamus): A word of caution here, as there are doubts about the provenance and authenticity of two of the five sonatas presented so stylishly on this attractive release. One, the F major, BWV 1022, is probably an arrangement by one of Bach's sons or pupils, and the other, in G minor BWV 1020, may be by either Bach or his son Carl Philipp Emanuel; it may even have been a flute sonata originally, as the lowest string of the violin is never used.

But the three authenticated sonatas provide unequivocal listening pleasure, with much striking music among their movements: the opening Siciliano of the C minor Sonata brings us close to the sorrow of the St Matthew Passion, and the same sonata's finale could almost come from one of the violin concertos.

The playing from violinist Jacqueline Ross on her fabulous 16th-century instrument is informed with all that is best in research into performance practice, including expressive crescendi during long-held notes, an athletic, almost vibrato-less attack, and vigorous, shapely bowing. Harpsichordist David Ponsford is a positive collaborator, articulating with fullness and clarity, and the close recorded sound is evocative of the intimacy of an 18th-century chamber. A companion disc is promised. HHHH
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Publication:The Birmingham Post (England)
Date:Dec 1, 2001
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