Any celebration of Schumann’s organ music is bound to be a modest affair. The Six Fugues on the name ‘Bach’ is his only significant work for the instrument, although the Sketches and Studies originally written for the short-lived pedal piano are now accepted as hybrid organ pieces.
But to include them all, as Thomas Trotter did in his 200th birthday tribute on Monday, only served to highlight their shortcomings, as well as some undoubted strengths.
All one can say of the Four Sketches Op 58 is that, despite Trotter’s choices of registration and judicious use of solo stops, their brevity was much appreciated. The Six Studies in canonic form, however, were much more interesting and also deftly realised.
By any standards Schumann’s six Bach fugues are great music, intriguing, skilful, and full of variety. And given Trotter’s superb control of both the music’s fabric (tempi, rhythms, phrasing and articulation were faultless to a degree) and tonal resources (build-ups of sound in the first and fourth were seamlessly achieved, and the sixth was like a monumental paean) they were absolutely stunning to hear.