UK finally gets Bach’s complete little organ book

UK finally gets Bach’s complete little organ book


norman lebrecht

July 25, 2022

J S Bach wrote just 46 of a planned 164 chorales in his Orgelbüchlein.

Three years ago, organist William Whitehead commissioned living composers John Rutter, Judith Bingham, Sir Stephen Hough, Sally Beamish, Louis Andriessen, Daniel Kidane, Roxanna Panufnik, Nico Muhly and more to supply the missing pieces.

The Royal College of Organists will give the full UK premiere on the weekend of 23-25 September, in nine concerts around London.

All performances will be free.

Saturday 24 September

Temple Church, 10am – ‘Laws and Canons’

Charles Andrews, organ

Pieces by: David Matthews, Gerald Barry, John Caldwell, Kalevi Aho, Guy Bovet, John Butt, Poul Ruders, John Frandsen, Andrew Synnott, Tarik O’ Regan, Louis Andriessen, Thomas Ospital, Ad Wammes, Ullrich Böhme. By Bach: BWV 600 618 620 624 635 636 643.

St Brides, Fleet Street 11.30am – ‘Symbols and Pictures’

William Whitehead, organ

Pieces by: Grayston Ives, Naji Hakim, Franz Danksagmüller, Judith Bingham, Diana Burrell, Robert Saxton, Enjott Schneider, Anthony Powers, William Whitehead, Edward Higginbottom, Rhian Samuel, Vincent Paulet, Daniel Beilschmidt. By Bach: BWV 607 621 622.

St Andrew’s Holborn 1.30pm – ‘Trinity’

Tom Bell, organ, with special guests, the Fred Thomas Trio

Pieces by: Solfa Carlile, Robert Quinney, Geoffrey Webber, Sally Beamish, Joris Verdin, Till Alexander Körber, Matthew Martin, David Briggs. By Bach: BWV 629 632 633 639.

St James Garlickhythe 3pm – Launch of Vol 3

Kyoko Canaway, organ

Pieces by: Bryan Kelly, Richard Gowers, Piet Kee, Nils Henrik Asheim, Jörg Abbing, Franz-Josef Stoiber, Joanna Marsh, Jean-Baptiste Dupont, Robert Walker, Christopher Fox, Axel Ruoff, Ernst Wally, Thomas Daniel Schlee, Andrew Carter, Thea Musgrave, Francis Grier, Jon Laukvik, Philip Moore. By Bach: BWV 609 625 637 638.

St Paul’s Cathedral, Evensong 5pm, with organ music starting at 4.30pm.

The music sung at Evensong will include Bach.

‘Grand scheme’ Imogen Morgan, organ

Pieces by: Cecilia McDowall, Roxanna Panufnik, Gabriel Jackson, Sven-David Sandstrøm, Justė Janulytė, Barnaby Martin, Grégoire Rolland, Guy Olivier Ferla, Richard Pantcheff. Voluntary after Evensong: Michael Stephens-Jones, BWV 627.

Sunday 25 September

St George’s, Hanover Square 1pm – ‘The Dance’

Tom Bell, organ

Pieces by: David Maw, Roderick Williams, Paul Ayres, Andrew Keeling, Jeremy Thurlow, Frederick Stocken, David Franke, Silas Wollston, Benoît Mernier, Andrew Gant, Jacques Pichard, Jacques van Oortmerssen, Zsigmond Szathmáry, Andreas Fischer. By Bach: BWV 601 608 612 617 631 644.

Westminster Central Hall 3pm – ‘Luther’

Gerard Brooks, organ

Pieces by: Gerard Brooks, Cheryl Frances-Hoad, Daniel Saleeb, Francis Jackson, William Cole, Hayo Boerema, Ruth Byrchmore, Andrew Arthur, Joanna Ward, Stephen Hough, Catherine Kontz, João Vaz. By Bach: BWV 599 604 606 611 616 619 626.

St James Palace, Chapel Royal 5pm – ‘In Homage’

Martyn Noble, organ, with the Choir of the Chapel Royal, conducted by Joe McHardy

Pieces by: Lionel Rogg, Christian von Blohn, Lorenzo Ghielmi, John Scott Whiteley, Alec Roth, James O’ Donnell, James Francis Brown, Peter Shepherd, William Whitehead, Timothy Byram-Wigfield, Pierre Farago, John Rutter, Alexander Campkin, Gregory Rose. By Bach: BWV 602 613 614 630 641.

Westminster Abbey 7pm – Bach: A Celebration

William Whitehead and Peter Holder, organ

Pieces by: Peter Holder, Loïc Mallié, James Lark, Thierry Escaich, Nico Muhly, Daniel Kidane, Simon Johnson, Sebastian Forbes, Nigel Allcoat, David Bednall, Ronny Krippner, Iain Farrington, Peter Planyavsky, David Till, Giles Swayne, Francis Pott. By Bach: BWV 603 605 610 615 623 628 640 642.


  • DH says:

    What a wonderful project. Just reading the summary leaves me breathless at its ambition and promise.

    • Paul Dawson says:

      Agreed. Alas, being performed as another marathon – back to the recent WTC and Beethoven marathons. How can anyone digest this much music over such a short interval? If it were one concert a day, I’d fly over from California to attend.

  • Harry Collier says:

    Why all only in London? What about the rest of the country?

  • says:

    Fascinating range of talented composers old and new. I have a long-dated weakness for Francis Jackson’s ‘Diversion for the Mixtures’ and admire, for example Escaich, Hakim and Bovet from across the channel, while knowing Robert Saxton and Francis Grier personally; and being in touch by Facebook with the amazing new talent Cheryl FH. Some of these are perhaps no longer with us. But here is an encyclopedia of style. Has the romanticism of Jackson been maintained? How would a once-Boulezian, Robert S, now write in Bachian way from his eyrie in Oxford? His remarks about my fatal romanticism having almost put paid to any further composing! I cherish and admire this whole line-up. There are bound to be some gems in there. The whole thing needs to recorded if it has not been, so far. It raises many interesting questions about what constitutes inspired new – but traditionally based – music these days. I think it will show that certain people have passed us by, leaving but a trace. Has not Dutilleux finally won out against Boulez? How do all these measure up against the finest organ music from Britten (just one piece) to the sadly departed Pierre Pincemaille of St Denis? At the very moment when Notre-Dame’s soul is disputed, what can the life-offering of all these great witnesses offer religion in the future? A very great deal, I would have thought. Careful study of this will reveal fascinating trends at home and abroad; and the completion of the mosaic will leave us luxuriating in the distinction and richness of all of these wonderful and frequently cosmopolitan creators! Bravo!

  • J Jordan says:

    Will these concerts be live streamed

  • Davethegeo says:

    A shame it’s only in London. The rest of the country misses out… Again.