Early Music Review
October 2001

The Art of Fugue, so both sets of booklet notes tell us, was written for harpsichord. Why then, one might ask, record it in a different format? And which, if either, is the more sucessful: organ or orchestra? Whatever the historical background to the piece and various statements about how completely it has come down to us, it is a monumental work (made more difficult to pull off in performance because each of the movements is, of necessity, in the same key) which requires both technical mastery and structural vision. Both recordings do not fail us in either respect. Colm Carey gives us Contrapuncti I-XII, while Labadie and his band add Contrapuncti XIII and XIV, as well as variants of XII and XIII and four canons and a completion of XIV 'afrter Davitt Moroney'. I thoroughly enjoyed Labadie's orchestration of the Goldberg Variations and I have to say that I'm equally impressed by the playing here. It does, however, seem slightly strange, to argue that the four lines of the original represent four instrumental threads and then play a hybrid sequence with some of the movements on harpsichord or organ alone. That, though, is my only minor quibble with the CD. Colm Carey is a fine young organist (though I'm not sure I like the idea of all artists inviting us to visit their websites!) and I thoroughly enjoyed his version, despite my gross dislike for the tremulant in any repertoire: its apprearance in Conrtapunctus III was almost enough to make me skip the track. The organ of the Dutch Church in London dates from 1954, with restoration work carried out in 1995, and it sounds splendid - as much as triibute to the fine recording as the pipework, I imagine. Bach scholars should have both recordings, of course. If you're new to the Art of Fugue, either will stand you in good stead.