Regarding organs works of Olivier Messiaen, J.S. Bach and Max Reger

Willem Tanke is mainly known for his CD-recordings of the complete organ works by Olivier Messiaen. These have been critically acclaimed as ranking among the best in their genre.



Willem Tanke's ideal of playing keyboard instruments is based on a passage from the first biography on Bach by Forkel, published in 1802, in which the author points out that the great man achieved a maximum of expression with a minimum of movements.

Starting-point for Tanke's Bach interpretation has been the historically informed performance practice:


Looking beyond the historically informed performance practice and making a next step, Tanke applies the rhythmical souplesse and vitality of his own compositions and improvisations to the notion of dance in Bach interpretation. 


Regarding the music of Bach and Messiaen music as a continuous journey, Tanke feels like coming home when playing Max Reger. His interpretation of Reger's magnificent and monumental Variationen und Fuge über ein Originalthema Op. 73 (issued on SuperAudio CD) and Fantasie und Fuge Op. 135b is of unrivaled grandeur:
Regarding Willem Tanke's own music 

As a composer and an improviser Willem Tanke has been developing an original and innovative language since the late '70s.  Ralph Blakely wrote about the SuperAudio CD Meditations for a lent "I believe it may be the most important recording I’ve reviewed for ARG. Tanke wrote that he intended to explore the direction music is headed in the 21st Century. If that be so, I am excited about where it is going."



Feeling that his language is rooted in the modal music of medieval Europe (particularly Gregorian chant that he knows from early childhood), North-Africa and Asia, Willem Tanke leaves the notion of the pipe organ as a church instrument to arrive at its origin, the water organ, invented in Eqypt in the 3d century b.C. Tanke's innovative work is recognized by Mike Garson and Bennie Maupin, who played on some of the most iconic albums of the 20th century by David Bowie and Miles Davis respectively, and Rudresh Mahanthappa, one of the world's leading avant-jazz saxophonists. These musicians are in particular interested in Tanke's ability to play a strict or variable ostinato with one hand, which functions as a loop or groove, and improvise with the other, possibly including the feet. This ability is directly related to the independance of hands and feet necessary for playing, for instance, a trio sonata by Bach. Eventually, also because his sophisticated technique and refined toucher are indisputable, these aspects of Tanke's musicianship will contribute to re-defining being an organist in the 21st century.


Tanke documents his expertise on a separate website including an educational section: