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In preparation for the 250th anniversary of the death of
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750), the TELDEC label
released their “Bach 2000” project, a set of 153 CDs
containing all of Bach’s works “. . . that modern scholarship
regards as authentic.”

I recently finished hearing the Organ works, and as noted
in the accompanying booklet, new discoveries are always
appearing as well as numerous pieces “. . . where
genuineness has been questioned, but where doubts as
to their authorship are not sufficiently great as to
warrant their exclusion.”

At any rate, the Organ works were recorded between
1994 and 1999 by organist and conductor,
Tom Koopman (1944 – ). This 16-CD set seemed like a
worthwhile listening project for me, considering the stature
of this composer and the importance of the music.
Of course, I’d already heard much of it before, but in the
spirit of exploration, I wanted to traverse the entire
corpus. I’m glad that I did!

Bach’s works for organ span his entire compositional career.
They probably begin with the Preludes contained in the
“Neumeister Collections,” which illustrate what he was
writing at age 15! In fact, Chorale-related pieces make up
the largest percentage of his Organ works by genre.
The remainders are various Preludes, Toccatas, Sonatas,
Fantasias, Fugues, Concerto transcriptions, and assorted
works of various categories.

While listening to this large body of work, the sheer industry
of this composer was driven home to me, time and time
again. He fused so many elements from various traditions
and created new examples, thereby bringing their ongoing
development to a peak. Naturally, not every composition is
of the highest quality, but in the case of Bach, the vast
majority of them were “pretty good!”

I liked that Maestro Koopman performed this music on
various historic organs, located throughout Holland and
Germany. These are instruments that would have been
familiar to Bach. The accompanying trilingual booklet also
contains their various histories and specifications. Keeping
in mind that I haven’t made any serious comparisons
between the various organists performing these works
(Many of whom have also produced complete sets!),
Maestro Koopman’s playing seemed fine to me.

When you consider that the aforementioned
“Neumeister Collections” of early Chorale Preludes weren’t
allegedly discovered until 1984, it would appear that this
set would take pride of place over other “complete” Bach
sets that were recorded prior to that year. The recorded
sound was fantastic, with the appropriate “reverb/decay”
factor that is so essential to this music. I’ve accomplished
another listening project from my “bucket list!”

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