Organs in Dialogue

Organs in Dialogue
Javier Artigas & João Vaz
1779 & 1864 organs of Clérigos Church, Oporto, Portugal
Arkhé Music 2016002. 64’07

Music by Boaventuba, Portugal, Ferbenac, Gill, Lidón, Bondaczuk.

During the 18th century, Iberian churches often adopted the earlier Italian plan of having two organs, each in (usually) identical architectural cases positioned on balconies and speaking towards each other across the choir. The practice has its roots in St Mark’s Venice in the 16th century. Clérigos Church in Oporto is one such example, its two organs dating from 1779 with major restorations in 1864. Rather like French organs, organ building in the Iberian peninsula reached a technical peak in the 18th century at a time when the music written for the organ was experiencing something of a decline. This CD reflects both those aspects; of organ building and composition. Continue reading

José Luis González Uriol in Lisbon

José Luis González Uriol in Lisbon
1765 Fontanes de Maqueira organ, São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon
Arkhé Music. 72’23

Music by Cabezón, Trabaci, Bruna, Kerll, Sola, Cabanilles, Nassarre, Zipoli, Lidón.

José Luis González Uriol is one of the most influential Iberian organists and teachers, and this recording is a homage to him, and also to the organ in the Monastery of São Vicente de Fora, Lisbon, built by João Fontanes de Maqueira in 1765, and restored in 1994 as part of Lisbon’s European City of Culture celebrations. Unusually for organs, it had survived virtually unaltered since it was built, and retains 98% of its original pipework. The recording was made on 17 October 1994, just after the opening of the restored organ in a recital by González Uriol. A combination of factors, including the death of the recording producer Joaquim Simões de Hora (who was also heavily involved in the restoration project), meant that the recording has never been released until now. Continue reading

Parthenia Nova

Parthenia Nova
Richards, Fowkes & Co Opus 18 organ: St George’s Hanover Square
Simon Thomas Jacobs
Fugue State Records FSRCD009. 77’40

Parthenia Nova

The 2012 opening of the new organ in St George’s Hanover Square was an important event in the London organ world. The church itself has a strong musical identity, not least by being Handel’s own parish church when he lived a couple of streets away. It was the first organ in London by any American organ builder, in this case Richards, Fowkes & Co. Despite some concessions to present day Church of England use, it is at heart a relatively uncompromising take on the 16th and 17th century organs on North Europe, the specialism of the organ builders. It is housed in a case spread across the west end of the church gallery. The central portion of the case is an historically important 18th century one, although nothing remains of the organ that it originally contained. Continue reading

Joan Cabanilles: Organ pieces

Joan Cabanilles: Keyboard Music Vol 1
Timothy Roberts (organ)
1724 organ of the Basilica of Sant Jaume, Vila-real (Castellón/Valencia)
Toccata Classics TOCC 0391. 64’48

Tocata 1 de primero tono, Passacalles 2 de primero tono, Tocata 4 de quinto tonoTiento 12 de falsas, de cuarto tono, Tiento 31 partido de mano derecha, de primero tonoTiento 82 lleno, por Bequadrado de quinto tono, Tiento 9 partido de mano derecha, de secondo tonoTocata 2 de mano izquierda, de quinto tono, Tiento 63 de contras, de cuarto tonoTiento 55 de primero tono, Tiento 14 partido de dos tiples, de cuarto tono.

Joan (more usually spelt as Juan) Cabanilles (1644–1712) is a curious composer. His compositions fully absorb the late Renaissance counterpoint of the earlier, and better known, Spanish organ composer Francisco Correa de Araujo (1584–1654) but apply to that foundation layers of often virtuosic Baroque figuration that can range in style from the simplistic to the frankly perverse. He was born in Valencia, and seems to have remained there throughout his life, engaged in little more than the usual activities of a priestly musician in a cathedral city. He was organist of the cathedral, but doesn’t seem to have ever become the cathedral’s musical director. Although he composed a vast amount of organ music, it was not published in his lifetime and none of his original manuscripts survive. His music only exists in copies, of varying degress of accuracy, most now housed in the Biblioteca de Catalunya in Barcelona. The Biblioteca began a problematical complete edition in 1927, which remains incomplete to this day.  Continue reading

A Giant Reborn: the restored 1735 Richard Bridge organ of Christ Church, Spitalfields

A Giant Reborn
The restored 1735 Richard Bridge organ of Christ Church, Spitalfields, London
Gerard Brooks
Fugue State Records FSRCD010. 2CDs. 77’02+66’35

Music by Prelleur, Handel, Greene, Stanley, Bull, Barrett, Purcell, Croft, Heron, Boyce, Walond, Arne, Nares, Reading, James, Keeble

Spitalfields CD.jpgThe completion of the restoration of the famous 1735 Richard Bridge organ in Hawksmoor’s Christ Church, Spitalfields was one of the most important musical events in London during 2015. My review of John Scott’s opening recital, and details of the organ, can be seen here. Tragically it was one of the last recitals that John Scott gave before his death . Equally tragically, the master organ builder William Drake, the finest restorer of historic organs in the UK, died the year before the organ’s completion, so never heard what must now stand as his memorial.

Christ Church, Spitalfields was built between 1714 and 1729 as part of the ’Fifty New Churches’ Act of Parliament of 1711. It is one of the six East London churches WP_20150605_18_45_24_Prodesigned by the famed Baroque architect Nicholas Hawksmoor. The organ was built in 1735 by Richard Bridge, who became one of the leading organ builders of the day. Spitalfields seems to have been only his second commission, perhaps explaining the comparatively low price of £600 for such a substantial instrument. For the following 100 years or so, it was the largest organ in the country. It suffered the inevitable changes over the years, but retained enough of its original pipework to form the basis for a historically based reconstruction, returning it broadly to its original specification and construction. It was dismantled in 1998 while the church was being restored and was then restored to its 1735 specification, with very few concessions. Its completion in 2015 makes this by far the most important pre-1800 organ in the UK.

This is the first recording of the restored organ. As well as being a comprehensive account of the instrument’s forces, it is also a fascinating reflection of the organ music in 18th century England, covering most of the principal composers, many of which are little known outside of their organ compositions. Rather like Continue reading

St Giles-in-the-Fields: Samuel Wesley (b1766)

St Giles-in-the-Fields 60 St Giles High Street. London, WC2H 8LG
Friday 29 July 2016: 1pm.
Andrew Benson-Wilson plays organ music by
Samuel Wesley (1766- 1837)

Samuel Wesley was born in Bristol 250 years ago. He was the son of Charles Wesley the hymn-writer and nephew of John Wesley, founder of the Methodist Church. He was a 2014-07-04-1716.jpgchild prodigy, writing his first oratorio, Ruth, aged 6. When he was 8, the composer Dr William Boyce referred to him as the ‘English Mozart’. His family moved to London when he was about 12, living in Marylebone. He led a colourful life, some of his apparent eccentricities possibly being caused by a serious head injury when he was about 21. An organ virtuoso, Samuel Wesley was the leading pioneer of the Bach revival in England. Bach seems to have been a strong influence on his Opus 6 Organ Voluntaries, published between about 1807 and 1820, and the focus of this recital.

The wonderful William Drake reconstruction of the Dallam/Smith/England/Lincon/Gray & Davison organ, contains some of the oldest pipework in London. It is very well-suited to Wesley’s music as, in its current form, it represents the English organ in the early years of the 19th century, with strong reminders of the earlier 17th and 18th English organ style.

Organ information: http://npor.emma.cam.ac.uk/NPORView.html?RI=P00119
Free admission, retiring collection.
The church is just behind Centre Point/Tottenham Road Court station.

 

 

 

Frescobaldi: Fiori Musicali

Frescobaldi: Fiori Musicali
ed. Andrea Macinanti & Francesco Tasini
124pp, 235×315 mm, ISMN: 979-0-2153-0642-4
Ut Orpheus Edizioni ES39.

Frescobaldi’s Fiori Musicali was published in 1635. He was at the height of his musical powers, having just returned to Rome (after six years with the Medici’s in Florence) to work for the Barberini Pope and Cardinals, and continued his post as organist of St Peter’s in Rome, a post he had held throughout his many travels. Although many pieces in Frescobaldi’s earlier books of Toccatas (1615/16 and 1627) were clearly intended for organ and would have presumably have been playing in a liturgical setting, Fiori Musicali is his only organ book specifically geared towards use in the Mass. It was his last publication of new music, although he did re-issue some earlier volumes. It quickly became one of his most popular publications, and was used as an exemplar of polyphonic writing well into the 19th century. Bach also studied it and copied it out. Continue reading

Scheidt: Keyboard music transmitted in manuscript form

Samuel Scheidt: Keyboard music transmitted in manuscript form
ed. Peter Dirksen
120pp, 230×305 mm, ISMN: 979-0-004-18395-3
Edition Breitkopf EB8831.

Following the three volumes of Scheidt’s Tabulatura Nova (reviewed here), the most recent of the Breitkopf Scheidt edition, recently published, covers the keyboard music found in manuscript sources. The importance of his three volume Tabulatura Nova has meant that the music not included in those volumes is usually overlooked, Continue reading

Scheidt: Tabulatura Nova III

Samuel Scheidt: Tabulatura Nova III
ed. Harald Vogel
192pp, 230×305 mm, ISMN: 979-0-004-18122-5
Edition Breitkopf EB8567.

Breitkopf & Härtel have completed their important four volume series of the organ and keyboard works of Samuel Scheidt. Volumes I & II of Scheidt’s monumental 1624 Tabulatura Nova were published as EB 8565 and EB 8566 (containing works SSWV 102-126 & 127-138 respectively), both edited by Harald Vogel, as is the third volume, EB 8567 reviewed here. This contains works SSWV 139-158, the nine Magnificat settings together with a Kyrie and Hymn settings and Continue reading

Dulwich: College of God’s Gift 400th Anniversary Recital

The Chapel of Christ of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift
Gallery Road, Dulwich, SE21 7AD

Sunday 10 July 2016, 7.45

The College of God’s Gift 400th Anniversary Recital

Circa 1616

Andrew Benson-Wilson will give a special organ recital to celebrate the 400th anniversary of the dedication of the the Chapel of Christs of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift in Dulwich. Andrew will play music from the years around 1616 on the famous 1760 George England organ.

Benjamin Cosyn – ‘Voluntary’ (c1620)
Orlando Gibbons – Fantazia in Foure Parts (c1611)
John Lugge – Voluntarie.3.pts. Continue reading

JS Bach: Complete Organ Works – Volume 8

JS Bach: Complete Organ Works – Volume 8
Organ Chorales of the Leipzig Manuscript
Ed. Jean-Claude Zehnder
Breitkopf & Härtel 2015
Edition Breitkopf EB8808
184pp + CD

Editions of Bach’s organ works are something of a minefield, even when there are clear autograph scores available. In many cases that is not the case, so the role of the editor and the availability and accuracy of available sources becomes an important consideration. Of all the publishers to be involved in Bach, Breitkopf & Härtel are perhaps the most appropriate. Founded in Leipzig in 1719  four years before Bach took up his post there, they were the first to publish the complete works of Bach, between 1851 and 1900 for the Bach-Gesellschaft. Unfortunately, at the moment, I only have access to one volume of their latest complete Bach Organ Works, so cannot comment on the 10 volume set as a whole.

The chorales from the Leipzig Manuscript are known by a variety of names, one of which is the ‘Eighteen Chorales’. This is misleading, not least because there are arguably either 15, 17 or 18 chorales in the collection. The first 13 Continue reading

John Scott Commemoration

John Scott Commemoration
St Paul’s Cathedral. 6 May 2016

The untimely death in August 2015 of the eminent organist and choral director John Scott was a shock to many. Organist and Director of Music of St Paul’s Cathedral from 1990 to 2004, and then at St Thomas Church on Fifth Avenue, New York, John’s reputation as solo organist and choir director seemed to be on a perpetual rise. His memory remains strong in St Paul’s Cathedral, as was evident from the packed Service of Commemoration and Thanksgiving to mark his life, held in place of the usual Evensong on Friday 6 May.

Unusually for English cathedral services, the commemoration was prefaced by 35 minutes of organ music, played by two of John’s former Sub-Organists Continue reading

Weckmann recital: programme notes

The Queen’s College Chapel, Oxford.  27 April 2016
WP_20151124_12_09_44_Pro.jpgMatthias Weckmann
1616–1674

Andrew Benson-Wilson

Praeambulum Primi toni a 5
Ach wir armen Sünder (3v)
Canzon V
Magnificat Secundi Toni (4v)
Toccata ex D
Gelobet seystu, Jesu Christ (4v)

Matthias Weckmann is one of the most influential 17th century organist composers of the North German – a compositional school that started with Hieronymus Praetorius and the pupils of Sweelinck and culminated in Buxtehude and, by influence, Bach. Weckmann’s contribution was to bring elements of the Italian style to North Germany. Unlike most of his contemporaries who were born in or near Hamburg and studied in Amsterdam, Weckmann was born in Thuringia. He studied in the Dresden Court under Heinrich Schütz, a pupil of Giovanni Gabrieli, and in Hamburg with Jacob Praetorius, a Sweelinck pupil. After periods in Denmark and Dresden (where he befriended Froberger, also born in 1616), Weckmann settled in Hamburg in 1655, becoming organist of the Jacobikirche and setting up the Collegium Musicum. He is buried beneath the Jacobikirche organ.

The Praeambulum Primi toni a 5 is a fine example of the mid-17th century North German style of free composition that led Continue reading

Matthias Weckmann (1616-1674)

WP_20151124_12_09_44_Pro.jpg

Andrew Benson-Wilson plays music by
Matthias Weckmann (1616-1674)
on the famous Frobenius organ in the Chapel of The Queen’s College, Oxford. 

27 April 2016, 13:10.

A recital of organ music by the Hamburg master organist/composer, Matthias Weckmann, born 400 years ago this year. A pupil of Schütz who, in turn, was a pupil of Giovanni Gabrieli, Weckmann studied and worked in Dresden and Denmark. A friend of the influential Froberger, Weckmann settled in Hamburg in 1655 as organist of the Jakobikirche. He died in 1674 and is buried beneath the Jakobikirche organ.

Praeambulum Primi toni a 5
Ach wir armen Sünder (3v)
Canzon V
Magnificat Secundi Toni (4v)
Toccata ex D
Gelobet seystu, Jesu Christ (4v)

Programme note here.

Admission free – retiring collection.  Organ information here.
See also www.organrecitals.com/abw.

Overture Transcriptions for organ

Overture Transcriptions II
The Organ of Rochdale Town Hall
Timothy Byram-Wigfield
Delphian DCD34143. 67’27

Overtures by: Nicolai, Spohr, Bach, Handel, Verdi, Weber, Tchaikovsky;
Transcribed by: Lemare, Best, Grace, Lang, Peace, Byram-Wigfield.

The story of the British Town Hall organ is a bit of a sideline of European organ history, but it is one worth exploring. The use of organs to promote civic pride and usurp their neighbours was not new in organ history – in 17th century Netherlands, for example, the main church organs were owned by the town, not the church, and a similar competitiveness is evident. The initial inspiration in Britain seems to have come from the increasingly large choral societies, their own roots going back to the enormous late 18th century Handel Commemoration Concerts. Such large vocal forces rehearsed and performed in the sumptuous Victorian Town Halls, notably in the emerging industrial powerhouses of the Midlands and North, but also in more southerly places like Reading. Some of the largest British organs are housed in such places, and Continue reading

Christ’s Chapel, Dulwich: organ recital

Ourania Gassiou, organ
Christ’s Chapel of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift. 13 March 2016

Music by CPE Bach, Böhm, Froberger, Fischer, Gottlieb Muffat, Sweelinck, JS Bach.

WP_20160313_19_33_10_Pro.jpgChrist’s Chapel of Alleyn’s College of God’s Gift in Dulwich was consecrated 400 years ago, in 1616. The chapel and adjoining almshouses were the first of the charity foundations set up by the wealthy actor, Edward Alleyn, owner of the manor of Dulwich.  Shortly afterwards, the foundation’s status as a educational college was confirmed, leading to the present day Dulwich College.

At about the same WP_20160313_19_35_32_Pro.jpgtime the Chapel’s first organ was installed. In 1760 it was replaced by a new organ by George England which, despite the usual additions and alterations over the years, still survives with a considerable amount of mid- 18th century pipework and a fine Gothick case. In 2009 it was restored back to its 1760 state (with modest additions) by the UK’s leading specialist on historic organs, William Drake. The original pitch (A430) and modified fifth-comma meantone temperament was restored.  It is now one of the most important historic instruments in the UK.

The Chapel arranges a regular monthly series of 45 minute Sunday evening organ recitals, the latest of which was given by the prizewinning Greek organist, Ourania Gassiou, Continue reading

St. Lambrechter Orgelsommer 2015

St. Lambrechter Orgelsommer 2015
Manfred Novak, Pieter van Dijk, Peter Planyavsky organ
Ad Artem Musicae AAM 002-2015. 78’23

As well as the CD demonstrating the 2003 Westenfelder organ in the Abbey of Sankt Lambrecht, Austria (reviewed here), Ad Artem Musicae has also issued a CD of live recordings from four of the concerts in the 2015 St. Lambrechter Orgelsommer. Each concert features some contemporary music, and three of the four also have pieces for, or with, another instrument or a choir. The first and last recitals feature the Abbey organist, Manfred Novak. In the first he combines with Wolfgand Fleischhacker, playing saxophone and clarinet. In the final sequence of pieces, he is joined by Hansgeorg Schmeiser playing flute.

The opening piece is the Fugue from the Praeludium and Fuge in C (BWV547). This is one of the few Bach Prelude and Fugue pairs that were clearly intended to be performed together (most are found separately in the sources, and were put together, sometimes rather arbitrately, by much later editors), so the fugue played Continue reading

Farbklange: Zehn Jahre Westenfelder-Orgel in St. Lambrecht

Farbklange
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. Continue reading

“Grand Prix Bach de Lausanne” 5th International Organ Competition

“Grand Prix Bach de Lausanne”
5th International Organ Competition
Lausanne Bach Festival, 17-21 November 2015

WP_20151120_12_44_22_Pro.jpgThe “Grand Prix Bach de Lausanne” organ competition has taken place every four or five years since 1997, although the actual ‘Grand Prix’ has only been awarded on two of the four previous occasions. The stated intention of the competition is to attract talented organists from all over the world who are passionate about the music of Bach, his predecessors, precursors and his contemporaries. Competitors  are told that they need to be able to express the specific language of each style of organ music, and will be judged as to their musicality, choice of registration, technique, quality and order of the programme, style, and originality. Unusually for such competitions, there are no age limits. This is a big investment for the competitors. They are expected to be in Lausanne for up to eight days (arriving three days before the first round), and have to pay their own travel and accommodation costs, as well as a registration fee of 200 Swiss Francs. Unless they live locally, only those winning one of the three main prizes can hope to recover their costs.

A pre-selection round was judged from submitted recordings. According to the rules, ten candidates should have been chosen, “notwithstanding exceptional circumstances”. I don’t know what the exceptional circumstances were on this occasion, but Continue reading

Biber: Rosenkranzsonaten 2 & 3

Biber: Rosenkranzsonaten 2 & 3
Anne Schumann (violin), Sebastian Knebel (organ)
Querstand VKJK 1506/1507. 45’10/63’09

CD 2. Biber: Rosenkranzsonaten VI-X; Pachelbel: Ciacona in d
CD 3. Biber: Rosenkranzsonaten XI-XVI; Buxtehude: Ciacona in e

These two CDs complete the 3-CD series of the Biber Rosenkranzsonaten. Anne Schumann and Sebastian Knebel have divided the work into its three sections (the ‘joyful’, ‘sorrowful’ and ‘glorious’ mysteries) and have chosen a different recording venue for each section, based on the organ in each church. This is a commendable approach; not least because it avoids the ubiquitous little box organs and features full sized church organs. These were far more likely to be used as a continuo instruments at the time, and create a different aural perspective to the music. The first CD was reviewed here.

Biber Pachelbel Rosenkranzsonaten 2 Anne Schumann QuerstandCD 2, the ‘Sorrowful Mysteries’ (Sonatas VI-X), are recorded in Kaltenlengsfeld, next door to Friedelshausen, where CD 1 was recorded, south of the Bach town of Eisenach in Thuringia. The organ dates from 1755 and has, for Thuringian organs, a rather unusual configuration with a Ruckpositive. It is positioned above the altar in what appears to be almost a separate space from the main church volume, beyond a low arch and in a small space – presumably this explains the configuration, which takes up less vertical space. The recording is made fairly close to the organ, but still includes the acoustic bloom from the rest of the space. The violin Continue reading

German Renaissance Organ Music c1460-1577. Programme notes

The Queen’s College Chapel, Oxford.  25 November 2015
German Renaissance Organ Music  c1460-1577

Andrew Benson-Wilson

Conrad Paumann (c1410-1473) Gloria de Sancta Maria Vergine
Paul Hofhaimer (1459-1537)      Salve Regina  5v.
Hans Buchner (1483-1538)         Gloria patri in la quarto toni
Hans Kotter (c1485-1541)           Kochersperger Spanieler
Arnolt Schlick (c1460-c1521)    Da pacem
Bernhard Schmid I (1535-92)    Ein gutter Wein ist lobenswerdt    –    Sicut mater consolatur

Queen's photo.jpgThe start of the Renaissance is difficult to define. In organ music, around 1450 seems a reasonable date, with music from the likes of the Buxheimer Orgelbüch and the Faenza Codex combining elements of Medieval and Renaissance styles. By this stage, the organ had a fully chromatic keyboard, sometimes more than one manual, and independent stops were beginning to be separated out from the Medieval ‘Blockwerk’ – the equivalent of single mixture where one note plays a chorus of ten or more notes.

The first piece demonstrates this transitional phase. Continue reading

1690 organ, Notre-Dame de l’Assomption, Longueville

1690 organ, Notre-Dame de l’Assomption, Longueville
Flemish and Walloon Organ Treasure, Vol 4
Joris Verdin, organ, Capilla Flamenca
Vision-Air 2006/01. 70’10

Organ pieces by Peeter Cornet and motets by Peter Philips, Orlandus Lassus and Herman Hollanders

It is pretty certain that the organ in the church of Notre-Dame de l’Assomption in Longueville (southwest of Brussels) was built around 1690, but it is not clear who the organ builder was, although Blasius Bremser is a possibility. It was originally built for the Saint-Martinsdale Priory in Leuven but was moved south to Longueville when the priory was dissolved in 1785, placing it in the Walloon rather than the Flemish province. It has one manual with 12 stops, two of which are divided (in the Spanish fashion) to allow for bass and treble solos. The construction and style are Flemish. Continue reading

Krebs: Clavier-Übung III

Krebs: Clavier-Übung III
Jan von Busch, organ
MDG Audiomax 706 1888-2. 78’34

Six Sonatinas Krebs-WV 801-806, Six Sonatas Krebs-WV 832-837  

This CD produces an interesting meeting of minds between the composer Johann Ludwig Krebs and the organ builder Johann Georg Stein, both born a few miles from each other (near Weimar) and at about the same time (1712/13). Both absorbed local influences in their craft, before stylistically moving into a new style. Krebs, of course, was the favourite pupil of JS Bach, leading to Bach’s comment about him being the “best crayfish (Krebs) in the brook (Bach)”. It is to Krebs that we owe the preservation of much of Bach’s organ music. His own organ compositions are often based on recognisable Bach pieces, often extended to quite extraordinary lengths and developed into the early Classical style. So it something of a relief to hear him composing in miniature form. Continue reading

Magnificat: Weihnachtliche Orgelmusik

Magnificat: Weihnachtliche Orgelmusik
Markus Eberhardt (organ),
Schola Gregoriana des Consortium musicum Passau
Cornetto-Verlag COR10043. 67’38

Music by Fischer, Muffat, Zipoli, Kobrich, Eberlin, Schmid, Murschhauser, Kindermann and 16th century Tabulatures.

This CD combines three threads. Firstly, examples of alternatim settings of the Magnificat – where the Magnificatplainchant choir and organ sing and play alternate verses, a tradition dating from the late Medieval period through to the late Baroque). Then late 16th century intabulations of choral settings and variations and, thirdly, examples of the organ pastorella, a popular Christmas musical theme in southern Europe, representing the shepherds away the birth of Jesus, and often including well-known Christmas melodies such as the Resonet in laudibus.

The organ is the 1737 Baumeister organ in the former collegiate church of Maihingen, near Nördlingen, Germany. It seems to have d the former monastery was secularised in 1803 and became the chapel of a princely establishment. When it was restored in 1990, it was found to have retained its meantone temperament. For the technically minded, it has two manuals and pedals (11/7/4) with a short and broken octave. It is typical of southern German organs of the 18th century, with no reeds but a wide range of 8′ foundations stops (eight of the 18 manuals stops are at 8′ pitch), which can (and, indeed, should) be combined to form different tone colours. The registrations used are given in the liner notes, and include such distinctive sounds as the Quintaton, Selecinal and Cythara stops. There is only a brief summary of the German text translated  into English. Continue reading

Rameau & Handel

Rameau & Handel
Ensemble Zäis (dir. Benoît Babel) & Paul Goussot (organ)
Parity PARATY714127. 68’20

Handel: Organ Concertos Op7/4, Op4/4, Op4/1;
Rameau:
transcription for organ and orchestra from Pièces de clavecin en concerts and Hippolyte et Aricie.

Rameau & Handel: Dom BedosHandel and Rameau are both frustrating composers for organists. Both were very keen organists throughout their life, but Rameau left no organ music, and Handel very little. I have given many organ recitals solely devoted to Handel’s music, but only by drawing on music almost certainly intended for harpsichord. It works well, but I would love to have heard Handel (and Rameau) improvising on the organ. This CD is something of a nod towards that very happening. The unspoken premise of this recording seems to be that Handel and Rameau (born two years apart) meet near the west coast of France (which Handel certainly never ventured even close to) in a church housing one of the largest and most comprehensive French baroque organs ever built – the 1750 Dom Bedos organ of Saint-Croix in Bordeaux. There happens to be an orchestra present. They set about a run-through of some of their pieces, Handel expanding on his Organ Concertos and Rameau transcribing some of his orchestral and harpsichord ensemble works for organ and orchestra. Both improvise at will.  Continue reading

Pull out all the stops

Pull out all the stops
James McVinnie (organ) & Bedroom Community
Royal Festival Hall, 24 September 2015

The 2014 restoration of the influential and controversial Royal Festival Hall’s 1954 organ has seen a resurgence of organ recitals, although these are not (yet?) up to the frequency of the long-running Wednesday at 5.55 series that introduced the London public to continental organists and organ music. The title of the organ restoration project, and of the subsequent recital series, is ‘Pull out all the stops’, a reference an episode in the organ’s history. It refers to WP_20150924_20_52_21_Proa 1971 performance of Ligeti’s extraordinary organ work Volumina given by Xavier Darasse. The opening of Volumina requires the organist to pull out every single stop on the organ (something rarely, if ever, done), depress as many manual and pedal keys as he can by flattening his arms on the keys, and only then to switch the organ on. After a couple of seconds of an enormous crescendo as the bellows began to activate the pipes, all the fuses on the organ blew, prematurely ending the piece, and the recital. Continue reading

Supplementary Bach

J S Bach organ works – supplementary volume (IX )
Margaret Phillips, 1997 Draps/2008 Flentrop organ, Sint Niklaas, Belgium.
Regent REGCD454. 74’28

Eight Short Preludes & Fugues BWV 553–560; Fantasia duobus subjectis in g BWV 917; An Wasserflussen Babylon BWV 653b; Fantasia in C minor BWV 1121; Trio in G minor BWV 584; Prelude, Trio & Fugue in B flat BWV 545b; Ricercar a 3, Ricercar a 6 (Musical Offering) BWV 1079; Fantasia sopra Wo Gott der Herr nicht bei uns hält BWV 1128.

Image of the CD coverAs a supplement to Margaret Phillips’ 16 CDs of Bach organ works (published as eight double CDs plus this volume), this CD includes alternative versions, pieces usually allocated to but probably not by Bach, pieces not intended for organ, and one piece had not been rediscovered when the other Bach pieces were recorded, between 2005 and 2009. You could fill a further 16 CD with such peripheral and alternative pieces, so the selection of these 16 must have been quite a task. The choice is an excellent one, balancing well-known pieces such with little-known works like the Fantasia duobus subjectis. Continue reading

William Byrd: Walsingham

William Byrd: Walsingham
Jean-Luc Ho, organ et clavecin
Encelade ECL 1401. 70’14

The Maiden’s Song, Sir William Petre Pavan & Gaillard, In Nomine, Walsingham, Susanna Fair, The Queen’s Alman, Fantasia in A, Ut re mi fa sol la, Clarifica me, Pater 111, My Lady Nevell’s Ground, Fantasia in G, Pavan in A, Fantasia in D, Memento salutis auctor.

Although generally grouped under the title of the ‘virginalists’, most of the keyboard repertoire of Byrd’s era can be performed authentically on different keyboard instruments, although there are a few pointers towards either the organ (church or domestic) or one of the stringed keyboard instruments (harpsichord, virginal, clavichord). So the combination of harpsichord and organ on this CD is entirely appropriate, although there are one or two occasions when I might question Jean-Luc Ho’s particular choice of instrument. Both instruments were recorded in the Abbey of Saint-Amant-de-Boixe, Charente, France. Continue reading