If you want to hear all 270 of Bach’s compositions for organ–played on instruments that Bach himself used–they’re just a few clicks away at www.blockmrecords.org/bach. Downloads are free, and there have been more than half a million of them to date. “We’re reaching exponentially more people than if we had sold CDs,” says U-M music professor James Kibbie, who traveled to Germany five times over three years to make the recordings.
Kibbie was inspired to undertake the venture after playing all the pieces in a series of eighteen recitals on North Campus in 2000. Barbara and Barry Sloat attended all those performances, and when Barry became terminally ill, Barbara wanted to do something to honor her husband before he passed. That turned out to be providing the bulk of the $60,000 grant that paid for Kibbie’s travel and for mastering the recordings (the university came up with the balance).
Kibbie hasn’t made a penny off the project–he did it for the love of Bach. The biggest surprise for him, he says, was realizing that there isn’t a single bad piece out of the 270. “There was one I thought was iffy, but recent research has shown a better score,” he says. “It turns out it’s a really great piece, too.”