Farbklange: Zehn Jahre Westenfelder-Orgel in St. Lambrecht

Zehn Jahre Westenfelder-Orgel in St. Lambrecht
Manfred Novak
Ad Artem Musicae AAM 001-2012. 61’28

Music by Scheidemann, Bach, Frescobaldi, Boëlly, Arauxo, Ximénez, Brahms, Froberger, Buxtehude.

The design of modern organs is something of a minefield, with views ranging from entirely eclectic instruments, supposedly intended to play the entire historic repertoire; entirely modern instruments aiming to encourage present and future composers but bearing little attention to the existing organ repertoire; through to carefully researched reconstructions of key organs of yesteryear, ideal for a particular repertoire, but limited for other repertoires – together with all the many variations between these extremes.  Added to this are the complexities of the acoustics of the space and the space available for the organ, which is often in an historically and architecturally important environment.

This CD demonstrates the 2003 Westenfelder organ in the Abbey of Sankt Lambrecht, in the southern part of central Austria, ten years after its construction. This organ reflects one of many possible solutions from somewhere hear the middle of the range of options. It is an eclectic, but generally historically aware approach. Designed for performance of the pre-19th century repertoire, it incorporates elements of German, Austrian, French and Spanish organs of the 17th and 18th centuries. The specification reflects this rather confusing combination of very different historic sounds, with a broadly Germanic Baroque Hauptwerk division capped by flamboyant 18th century Spanish reeds that cannot appropriately be combined with the principal chorus. The Trompete that should be on the Hauptwerk (if it were are German-style Trompet rather than a more French-style Trompete) is instead placed on the Oberwerk division, wher it sits rather uncomfortably on top of the chorus of a French Jeu de Tierce, combined with a three-stop principal chorus, an Italian 17th century Piffaro (that, judging by the CD notes, is also thought of as an Austrian-style Unda maris), and a Viola, seemingly also of Austrian origin. The third manual, a Brustwerk enclosable by doors rather than a traditional swell box, is in the style of many neo-baroque organs of the 1970’s. The pedal division was limited by space, resulting in three ranks of pipes being extended to 7 stops.

Despite what might seem like a bit of a hotchpotch of musical styles the organ works well, with excellent voicing and regulation of individual stops. For this demonstration recording (Farbklange = Colour-sounds) , the Abbey organist Manfred Novak has chosen pieces representing the wide range of repertoire that can be achieved, albeit with some careful use of registration. The music ranges from the rather sparse texture of Scheidemann’s exquisite Magnificat, via the delicacy of Frescobaldi’s Tocata per le levatione, to the bombast of Boëlly’s Offertoire pour le Jour de Pâques and Ximénez’s Batalla de VI Tono.

I particularly liked Novak’s performance of Bach’s Trio super ‘Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland’, the registration for the two interweaving bass parts (one played on the pedal, the other with the left) providing clarity and attention to detail, and the technical difficulties overcome with ease. It is good to hear two pieces by the Spanish composers Francisco Corres de Arauxo, whose monumental Facultad Organica of 1626 is a treasure trove of glorious music. Although the three Brahms pieces show that the organ can, in theory, venture into the later era, the voicing of the pipes is some way from the organs that he would have known, the prominent chiff being just one aspect.  It was good to hear the dotted-rhythm passage near the start of Buxtedhude’s Praeludium in C (Bux 137) played at the correct speed. For some reason, most organists play it at twice the notated speed.

The CD notes included information on the organ design, registrations for all the pieces, and well-written notes describing the pieces and the chosen registrations. A companion CD, reviewed, here includes extracts from some of the recitals given during 2015.

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