Heaven in Suffolk – Masaaki Suzuki plays Bach

Framlingham St Michael
St Michael’s Church, Framlingham, Suffolk.
Every now and then the ordinariness of everyday life falls away and you are left in a very special place. It could be the beauty of an unexpected view, the heady scent of a delicate bloom, but last week for me it was hearing Bach’s ‘Vater unser im Himmelreich’. It was played on the Thamar organ in St Michael’s Church, Framlingham, by one of the world’s most celebrated Bach specialists, Masaaki Suzuki.

Sandwiched between some Buxtehude and Bach’s ‘Prelude & Fugue in E minor’ BWV 548, it was a glimpse of the sublime. I know you shouldn’t attempt to unpick such moments, but I have been trying to understand why it was so good.

The interior of the church is nothing special. However, I think its size coupled with the stone walls and pillars, provides a cavernous-feeling acoustic without being too big for the sound of the restored 17th-century Thamar organ. Secondly, the rich, mellow sound of the organ was powerful without becoming harsh and strident. And, finally, the playing of Masaaki Suzuki imparted a gentle, flowing sentiment that still pulsed with a firm 18th-century rhythm.

painted pipes
The painted pipes of the Thomas Thamar Organ – one of only three surviving 17th-century Thamar organs.