This enlightening. educational, and engaging DVD is one of the most enjoyable and well-presented I have watched in a long time. It has a compelling narrative told over seven 30-minute films by Sietze de Vries, and is a fascinating survey where the listener does, as the press material points out, receive a glimpse of the enormous scale of Bach’s vision for his Orgelbüchlein.
De Vries is a recognised concert organist and improviser, and he leads the viewer through the Orgelbüchlein which he describes as ‘ultimately a lodestar that offers a wealth of creative ideas from its brilliant composer’. De Vries explains the concepts and different elements of what Bach achieved with clarity and no hyperbole, successfully conveying in a relaxed style that is warm, communicative, and engrossing.
He gives a brief background to the project, discusses Bach’s creative ideas, and uses Albert Schweitzer’s view that the Orgelbüchlein was ‘the Bible of Bach’. He plays the composer’s 45 completed chorale preludes as well as improvising 45 more on other chorales that Bach wanted to use.
The two organs were chosen well to demonstrate the North German organ sound. Throughout his lucid presentation, De Vries demonstrates his points highlighting different stops, bringing out the special colours of the two organs. His eloquence helps convey a concise story, and there are many interesting morsels of information along the way.
His elegantly improvised 45 chorales that he chose in order to make a ‘new’ Orgelbüchlein are authentic in style, and he displays a great skill in understanding the idiom that lies behind Bach’s compositions. In the beautifully presented booklet, De Vries expounds more on the process and also details the registrations he used for each chorale.
Will Fraser’s film is a vivid, captivating, and attractive presentation.
Andrew Palmer, december 2023 (Organist’s Review)