J.S.Bach: 1714 Silbermann Organ of Freiberg Cathedral


David Goode performs a grand selection of some of Bach’s best organ works – including the famed Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor – providing modern listeners with a unique chance to hear Bach’s music as congregations of that period may have done.

The Gottfried Silbermann organ of Freiberg cathedral is one of a handful of such 18th-century instruments (built during Bach’s lifetime) to have remained largely unmodified to this day. Bach’s work as an organ inspector shows that he tested and inaugurated a number of Silbermann’s organs in Germany and, although there is no record that he played this instrument, its sound is undoubtedly one that Bach would have recognised and composed for.

What people are saying

 "Bach played Silbermann’s instruments, so this world of sound – with its silvery mixtures, blazing reeds and characterful flutes – is authentic as well as utterly compelling in a cavernous acoustic … An exemplary introduction to some of Bach’s greatest organ works."The Times  

"Best of all is the disc’s crowning glory: a blazing performance of the Passacaglia, turbo-charged with immediacy and penetrating lucidity. Goode and Silbermann make a formidable team." BBC Music Magazine
"This is a very fine recording of the Freiberg Silbermann, with a lovely variety of registrations." Choir and Organ Magazine

 "a superb Bach recital disc … this is an excellent release in every way – if you seek just one organ disc for your collection, or to add one which may put others to shame." Musicweb International, July 2014

David Goode organ

Release date:5th Dec 2011
Order code:SIGCD261
Barcode: 635212026120

This CD has been around for a while, and was reviewed comprehensively by Brian Wilson in 2012. His commentary is larded with comparisons and I find myself in agreement with those references with which I am acquainted, but my interest in the disc was as much for these pieces recorded on the 1714 Silbermann organ as for the interpretations, and I suspect most fans of Bach’s organ music will approach this disc from a similar point of view.

Signum’s recording is rich and full, capturing this stunning instrument and the acoustic of its environment to great effect. The opening Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C, BWV 564 is a demonstration track for this, with the left-right stereo division of the pipes creating an exhilarating feel of involvement, the short bursts of pedal notes generating gutsy bass and giving the Freiburg resonance a lively workout. The balance between hard-hitting detail and gorgeous atmosphere seems perfect.

The programme avoids a cliché ‘Best-of-Bach’ feel and is a well-chosen selection of the impressive and the lyrically expressive. David Goode also explores every aspect of the organ – even into some unexpected regions. Have a listen beyond 5:10 in the Passacaglia of BWV 582 and then check to see if your local canines have been alerted, so high does the player take this particular variation.

In essence this is a superb Bach recital disc which fits the bill as a one-stop place to savour the kinds of noises the composer himself would have considered ideal for his music. I agree that David Goode’s playing might not have quite the expressive elasticity of Kevin Bowyer on Nimbus, which for me took over from Peter Hurford on Decca in part due to the more convincing sound of the Danish instrument but also due to the extreme completeness of the set.

With comprehensive documentation of the works and the instrument this is an excellent release in every way – if you seek just one organ disc for your collection, or to add one which may put others to shame.

Dominy Clements, Musicweb International, July 2014

ABC Limelight Magazine (Australia), August 2012

Breathtaking performances on one of the world’s great organs

I’m not sure Charles-Marie Wídor would have liked to be remembered simply as the man Whose Toccata provides happy couples with the second most popular Wedding recessíonal in history. But there’s not much danger of that with organísts the Calibre of UK-born Joseph Nolan (currently Organist and Master of the Choristers at St George’s Cathedral, Perth) keeping the sacred flame burning.

Nolan here offers the first fruits of seven nocturnal recording sessions in a row, during which he put down all ten of Widor’s Organ symphonies at the console of the superb four-manual, 60-stop, 4426-pípe Cavaillé-Coll organ of La Madeleine, Paris. The first two symphonies of Widor’s Opus 42 are grandly Romantic, five-movement behemoths that balance huge multicoloured edifíces of devilish complexity with softer-lit landscapes populated by angelic choirs of varying dimensions. Nolan hovers over all like some musical derniurge, fleet of feet and fingers as he negotiates the massive chords and filigree passagework of faster movements such as the closing Vivace of Symphony No 6; thoughtful and sensitive yet smouldering with creative tension in slower movements such as the multi~faceted Andantíno quasi allegretto and mellífluous Fifth Symphony Adagio. And “that” Toccata, with which the Fifth Symphony and the disc end? An absolute ripper of a performance that will have you positively skipping down the aisle.



June 2012

It is obvious from the very opening of the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue that we are in the presence of a truly magnificent organ and an organist who has a real flair for interpreting Bach. 

Powerful dramatic gestures (a little undermined by the removal of 16-foot tone in the opening echo passages) and a gloriously delivered pedal cadenza lead into some sparkling fingerwork; and, while the booklet-notes incongruously refer to Liszt’s little- known piano transcription, Goode plays it all with the kind of all-encompassing virtuosity – hands, feet, registration and intellect – which is unique to the organ.

What a glorious sound this 1714 Silbermann makes, and what a superb recording Signum Classics has come up with, capturing it with a hefty dose of atmosphere but with untarnished clarity of detail. Much of the slim booklet is devoted to justifying the choice of instrument but, interesting as this is, it is merely wasted space. Our ears provide justification enough.

Goode is obviously relishing this fine instrument and gives us something of a Cook’s tour through its manifest delights. Nothing disturbs and the subtle Tremulant added to the slow movement of the A minor Concerto has an almost violinistic quality.

Unashamed in his deployment of the pregnant pause, the decorative flourish and the grand gesture, Goode ensures that everything fits so nicely into place that, far from merely being an excuse to hear Bach on a great historic organ, we hear Bach played with perception and real musical intelligence. A thoroughly enjoyable disc from every aspect. 

Gramophone, Marc Rochester

One of Britain’s finest organists puts the 1714 organ in Freiberg Cathedral through its paces in an all-Bach programme. Bach played Silbermann’s instruments, so this world of sound – with its silvery mixtures, blazing reeds and characterful flutes – is authentic as well as utterly compelling in a cavernous acoustic. Goode is perky in the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C, delightfully serene in Schmücke dich, and thunderously inexorable in the Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor. An exemplary introduction to some of Bach’s greatest organ works.

The Times, Richard Morrison

This is a very fine recording of the Freiberg Silbermann, with a lovely variety of registrations. Goode plays superbly in the A minor Vivaldi/Bach and G major Prelude & Fugue BWV 541. However, the great setting of Vater unser BWV 682 is too hurried, thereby losing much of its ravishing beauty. His performance of O Mensch BWV 622 is deeply felt but would benefit from more freedom, while the concluding Passacaglia needs more rhetorical power, and is a little rushed. All in all though, this is a worthy release.

Choir & Organ Magazine, Douglas Hollick

The most striking aspect of David Goode’s recent release of organ works by J. S. Bach is the composition of the programme itself. Frequently, discs of organ works by the composer appear as part of a larger series documenting the complete output and, inevitably therefore, it is not always possible to achieve a balanced and varied line-up of pieces on these recording. Whether or not there will be further releases featuring Goode playing Bach is not clear. However, what is certain is that here we are presented with an engaging and well-contrasted programme throughout. The recording begins and ends with two major works in C major and C minor, the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue and the Passacaglia respectively, between which are sandwiched two famous Preludes and Fugues and three chorale preludes, a well as one of Bach’s arrangements of a Vivaldi Concerto. Goode’s playing appears flawless throughout and, furthermore, is some of the most alert and inventive to be heard in recent Bach releases. The fantastical opening of the Toccata in C is lent further drama by the alternation between manuals, a daring move where many would, in my opinion, inadvisably, advocate performance on organo plena (full organ) throughout. The lyrical yet persistent quality of the Adagio is performed with a sense of noble poise, while the brisk tempo chosen for the Fugue is truly exhilarating.

The Passacaglia in C minor is undoubtedly one of the masterworks for the instrument. Bach’s simple eight-bar theme is stated at the opening of the piece in the pedals and is then heard in variations of astonishing variety. The Fugue is in fact a double fugue, in which the opening theme is presented with a counter-subject and subsequently handled with great contrapuntal skill and invention by Bach. Goode’s performance relates the grandeur of the piece; he opens on the organo plena. There is, however, variety in his use of registration, which is carefully thought out; he reduces the dynamic as the theme passes from the bass to the manuals, returning to the stop combination of the opening at the re-entry of the pedals. Goode’s articulation is clear and there is always a sense of forward momentum.
The three chorale preludes offer opportunities to hear some of the variety of softer sounds that this marvellous instrument have to offer and we are not disappointed here. Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele is one of the most beautiful of the numerous chorale-based works that Bach composed, characterized by a highly ornamented melody played in the right hand to simple left-hand and pedal accompaniment. It is played in a suitably unfussy fashion here, though Goode is not afraid to add extra ornamentation to the right-hand part, something which lends the performance a greater degree of individuality and expressivity than might otherwise have been the case. Vater unser in Himmelreich is taken from Clavierübun III, which consisted of ‘various preludes on the catechism and other hymns, for the organ’, as its title page read, we are informed in the accompanying notes. Goode’s rendition is notable for his elegant approach to the lilting Lombardic figurations that pervade the piece. 0 Mensch, bewein’ dein’ Sünde gross is a poignant Passiontide work, for which is selected a suitably steady tempo, though happily, Goode is careful not to over-indulge. The use of the crumhorn for the right-hand solo provides further tonal variation on this recording and highlights the suitability of the choice of this fine Silbermann instrument.
Bach’s arrangement of Vivaldi’s celebrated Concerto in A minor for violin and orchestra is one of I9 such arrangements of works by his Italian counterpart for keyboard and one of three specifically transcribed for performance on the organ. Here, the opening movement is lively but not rushed, while the approach to the central movement is measured, lending the music a sense of spaciousness. Goode’s use of the tremulant creates a sense of warmth in the performance. The character of his approach to the concluding movement is appropriately bold and forthright. The performance of the Prelude and Fugue in G major is suitably sprightly and the inclusion of a short, tasteful cadenza at the conclusion of the Prelude, following the diminished chord, is certainly called for. Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in B minor, we are informed, was probably performed at the funeral of the Electress of Saxony in 1727. This performance certainly conveys a sense of weight and gravity; the tempo is steady and stately. It is, of course, in this piece that the mean tone temperament of the Silbermann organ ‘tells’ to the greatest extent and the effect is magnificent; a good deal of the pungency of this work is lost in performance on an equal temperament instrument.
This is an exceptionally fine release that features a number of Bach’s finest works for organ played with a great deal of personality and panache. Although I would not necessarily agree with Oliver Condy, who writes in the approachable accompanying notes that this ‘major strand of western classical music [is] so relatively unknown’ (the vast number of recordings of the organ work available seem to indicate to the contrary), I would suggest that this recording is an invaluable addition to the collection of anyone, no matter how many performances of this music he or she already possesses.

International Record Review, David Newsholme

As always on recordings of organ music, the instrument is important. Here, it’s the magnificent, and magnificently preserved, 1714 Silbermann organ at Freiberg Cathedral, its pitch maintained at just over a tone higher than modem concert pitch; its sound, as befits its maker’s name, gloriously silvery. The programme offers some of Bach’s finest. To open, there’s the positively symphonic Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major, BWV 564; and to end, a thrilling reading of the C minor Passacaglia and Fugue. The great, statuesque B minor Prelude and Fugue, BWV 544, is one of the programme’s central pillars. David Goode’s deftly articulated, beautifully registered playing emphasises clarity, structure and, above all, character.

The Observer, Stephen Pettitt

Early Music Review, February 2012

David Goode preceded Robert Quinney (see below – Bach’s Trio Sonatas for Organ – Coro COR16095 review) as organ scholar at King’s College Cambridge in the 1990s, and there are similarities in their playing, not least in its jovial and spirited approach. Like Quinney, he occasionally takes a rather cavalier approach to the notes, with neo-baroque flourishes of his own that go well beyond ornamental additions. English organists do seem to like this sort of thing, but only the first few and the last tracks are affected. Goode ups his travel costs by choosing Silbermann’s masterpiece organ in Freiburg Cathedral. one of his earliest instruments (built when he was younger than both Goode and Quinney) and one of the finest historic organs around. The registration choices are sound, although I would have avoided the rather alarming tremulant on track 5 as it interferes with the melodic flow. The programme includes the more obvious Bach favourites, together with his extraordinary five-part Vater Unser, one of the most complex of all his organ works, but sounding effortless in David Goode’s interpretation. These are confident and assured performances.

Andrew Benson-Wilson

“To boast one Gottfried Silbermann organ might be considered good fortune. Freiberg Cathedral finds lofts for two – and the city can muster another couple for good measure. Silbermann produced organs famous for their silvery brilliance, and they’re the Rolls Royce default for anyone wanting to get to the heart of J. S. Bach’s prodigious output for the instrument. Silbermann and Bach were friends, and Bach later endorsed the organ builder’s fortepianos. For a recording originally released as a BBC Music Magazine cover CD in May 2011, David Goode settles on the Cathedral’s ‘Great’ organ – a three-manual dazzler that made the young Silbermann’s name – and his programme is as imposing as the instrument itself. C major ebullience and C minor gravitas (the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, and Passacaglia) supply a frame inhabited by two strikingly contrasted Preludes and Fugues: the effervescent G major and marmoreal B minor (lent extra tang by the organ’s modified mean-tone tuning). Bach’s debt to Vivaldi is handsomely repaid in an exhilarating account of the A minor Concerto. In the Adagio, Goode brings a supple poise which is occasionally missing in the chorale preludes – though ‘Vater unser’ exudes a galant jauntiness. Best of all is the disc’s crowning glory: a blazing performance of the Passacaglia, turbo-charged with immediacy and penetrating lucidity. Goode and Silbermann make a formidable team.”

Paul Riley, BBC Music Magazine

Though this collection contains very fine performances of some of Bach’s greatest organ works, the focus of the recording is as much on the instruments on which they are played as on David Goode’s interpretations themselves. The Silbermann organ in Freiberg cathedral was completed in 1714, and has remained virtually untouched ever since. Though there’s no evidence that Bach actually played it, he did know Silbermann and certainly gave performances on the builder’s other instruments, and arguably as close as it’s possible to get nowadays to what Bach would have envisaged for these works. Goode certainly exploits that tonal weight and coherence in this recital; the sombre power he generates in the magisterial C minor Passacaglia and Fugue, and the crispness of the bravura flourishes of the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue and equally effective, which the two preludes and fugues, the introspective B minor and distinctly perky G major, and brilliantly contrasted.

The Guardian, Andrew Clements

  1. Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major, BWV 564: Toccata – J.S.Bach – 6.10
  2. Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major, BWV 564: Adagio – J.S.Bach – 4.07
  3. Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C major, BWV 564: Fugue – J.S.Bach – 4.28
  4. Concerto in A minor (after Antonio Vivaldi), BWV 593: I Allegro – J.S.Bach – 3.59
  5. Concerto in A minor (after Antonio Vivaldi), BWV 593: II. Adagio – J.S.Bach – 4.08
  6. Concerto in A minor (after Antonio Vivaldi), BWV 593: III. Allegro – J.S.Bach – 4.02
  7. Schm?cke dich, o liebe Seele, BWV 654 – J.S.Bach – 6.24
  8. Prelude and Fugue in B minor, BWV 544: Prelude – J.S.Bach – 6.57
  9. Prelude and Fugue in B minor, BWV 544: Fugue – J.S.Bach – 6.42
  10. Vater unser in Himmelreich, BWV 682 – J.S.Bach – 6.46
  11. Prelude and Fugue in G major, BWV 541: Prelude (Vivace) – J.S.Bach – 3.08
  12. Prelude and Fugue in G major, BWV 541: Fugue – J.S.Bach – 4.51
  13. O Mensch, bewein’ dein’ S?nde gro?, BWV 622 – J.S.Bach – 5.31
  14. Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582: Passacaglia – J.S.Bach – 7.24
  15. Passacaglia and Fugue in C minor, BWV 582: Fugue – J.S.Bach – 5.46