This is almost the same text posted at HFC. \r\n\r\nTHE RECORDED ORGAN MUSIC OF BACH \r\n\r\nIt is very intimidating to try and be fair to all the organists. They belong to different schools, they had different recording means at their disposal, and more ancient artists couldn't use the DDR organs (the Silbermann, and some others) and most Bach contemporary organs can only now play played. But even so, I think the main approach of the main organists can easily be grasped. \r\n\r\nThere are not many integrals. M.C. Alain recorded Bach's integral for three times, Lionel Rogg (also two, I think), AndrÃƒÂ© Isoir (once), Olivier Vernet (a recent one), Werner Jacob, Wolfgang RÃƒÂ¼bsam (twice), Bernard Foccroule (once). Helmut Walcha has three near integrals and Simon Preston one. Koopman has also two quasi integrals. There must be more, but I don't recollect them or don't know them. \r\n\r\nI find it impossible to say which one I prefer in totto. But perhaps the last recording of MC Alain comes closer. Let me explain why. \r\n\r\nMC ALAIN \r\nThe style of MC Alain matured slowly. She knows the organ as most of us know our hands, and she plays Bach from youth. Her father was an organist (an also a kind of organ builder) and all her family is musical and 'organistical' (Jehan Alain was her brother). Seeing MC Alain play is a fantastic experience. She is rather small, and has a very candid appearance; yet she manages the most incredible tempi without any signs of stress: the organ is just an extension of herself. \r\n\r\nShe is a very self effacing person. She plays Bach and not MC Alain, in all humbleness. The results are, at best, just marvelous. The chorale settings are often very moving, the preludes and fugues are usually extraordinarily interesting and thrilling, and I don't know any better version of the utmost difficult (to play, because they are a joy to listen to when well played) triosonatas. The music shines when Bach himself makes it shine. \r\n\r\nThe organs she chose for the last integral are all but one (for reasons of compass) ancient ones. You can listen to the marvelous Alkmaar Schnitger organ, the beautiful Silbermanns, the marvelous Trost, and many others. Old organs are like very old port: rich, sweet, warm but still vibrant (all is relative: a Schnitger plenum is never warm!). So you can rely on the beauty of the sound. \r\n\r\nI would say if someone wishes to approach Bach he might well start with Marie Claire Alain. Sometime ago there was an interview in Diapason, which was titled: 'Comme Bach' - as Bach. I liked that title. \r\n\r\nWith MC Alain Bach's music is very human; it is perhaps religious in the sense that religion is a human emotional experience, but it is not transcendent. \r\n\r\nHELMUT WALCHA \r\nFor a really deep and structural view of Bach music you must turn to Walcha's sublime recordings. It is a great pity that DGG only provides westerners with the last integral, made at Alkmaar and Strassbourg. In Japan you can get hold of the Cappel integral, which is perhaps more interesting (I don't have it, alas). There is also a fantastic recording (1947) of some Bach pieces -\- it is my most treasured organ record. \r\n\r\nBe that as it may, the style of Walcha is very austere and is not easily approachable. He never plays for effect, uses sparing registration, and all registration changes are structural, that is, connected to the musical sections of the works. He uses terraced registrations - as Bruckner does in his orchestral works - and this is most effective if not most spectacular. \r\n\r\nHis tempo management is also quite different from that of the other organists; Walcha concentrates on the phrases and their connection; therefore you cannot expect him to emphasize a beat or a turn just for 'affekt'. He addresses the structure and not the detail. \r\n\r\nI must say every time I want to study a piece of Bach I refrain from hearing it played by Walcha altogether: I always feel forced to work with him or against him such is the strength of his vision. That doesn't happen with other interpreters. \r\n\r\nTry the Toccata and Fugue in F M, the preludes and fugues in A m, C m and the Passacaglia. Also his Leipzig chorales. His Art of Fugue is just sublime: nothing comes close to it. \r\n\r\nTo my mind, Walcha remains the most important organist of the XXth century, and his vision (this is not a pun - he was blind) is the most powerful of all the ones I know. Intimidating? Yes, a bit. But marvelous. \r\n\r\nOTHERS \r\nLionel Rogg was very influenced by Walcha; his records, which I do not possess any longer, are very good, if somewhat lacking the sparkle of Walcha and the naturalness of Alain. \r\n\r\n(I'll be briefer from now on). Bernard Foccroule's version is also very natural. The Leipzig Chorales are very beautiful, as are the earlier works of Bach. Foccroulle is an introverted interpreter of Bach, he was affected by modernism and its sparing way of expression but doesn't depend on angles. A very beautiful integral, with a sober expression, never spectacular but deeply felt. \r\n\r\nOlivier Vernet's recently finished integral was much acclaimed in France. He was a kind of protÃƒÂ©gÃƒÂ© of MC Alain, and one really understands why: he is technically extraordinary. Musically he is very consistent. He has a very severe (but rather fast and sometimes almost brutal) approach to Bach. I could do with a little more serenity, but it is really very good. Very recently a record from the integral came out, consisting of preludes and fugues. It is very compelling. I personally would like a little more spirituality in the chorale settings. But I can only recommend it. Try perhaps 'The Leipzig years', four records for the price of two (perhaps three?). \r\n\r\nI rather like Werner Jacob's integral. He plays in all kind of ancient organs and I was extremely touched by the small Silbermanns (in which he plays the OrgelbÃƒÂ¼chlein). Alas you have to buy the whole, but it is rather cheap. He is somewhat brusque, almost rude, but very frank, and I rather like that. \r\n\r\nAndrÃƒÂ© Isoir's has beautiful moments (the chorales, some preludes and most fugues) but it is slightly 'larmoyant', too weepy or at least overtly romantic for my taste in the chorales. Off course, in terms of integrity, I can only praise him. \r\n\r\nRÃƒÂ¼bsam has a Philips version, an objective, fast, reading, very entertaining and impressive, and a Naxos version, rather slow and introspective, sometimes very difficult to follow in terms of attention span. \r\n\r\nLast mention to Ton Koopman. A concert by Ton Koopman is an unforgettable experience. Once, after a concert, I was introduced and told him 'C'ÃƒÂ©tait fantastique!' (it was fantastic). He smiled and just said: 'Oui'. 'Comment, oui??!!' (how come plain 'oui'?) 'Oui', he repeated. We then laughed. \r\n\r\nI tell this story not to boast of knowing him (he certainly doesn't remember me, and I know many other famous musicians in the same superficial way) and not to show he is a vain man: I mean he just knew he gave it all - he ran all sorts of risks - but it paid. Sometimes it doesn't, and he gets into terrible problems. \r\n\r\nHe is brave, very frank, and I admire that. But his approach - all rhythm, drive and strong colours - doesn't always please me. Again, I prefer a more introverted Bach. But if you want a colourful Bach you must at least know Koopman's versions. There are some single records by Archiv and DDG. \r\n\r\nThis is rather long, I know. But I love this music, you see, and get quite carried away.