“Grand Prix Bach de Lausanne”
5th International Organ Competition
Lausanne Bach Festival, 17-21 November 2015
The “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
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.
CD 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
The Queen’s College Chapel, Oxford. 25 November 2015
German Renaissance Organ Music c1460-1577
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
The 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
Jacques van Oortmerssen was one of the most influential organists and organ teachers of his generation. His untimely death on Saturday 21 November is a great loss to music. In his memory, I am posting extracts from some of my reviews of his Bach organ CDs.
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
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
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 plainchant 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
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.
Handel 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
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 a 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
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.
As 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
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
“A daynty fine verse”
St Swithun’s, Worcester, 31 July 2015
Music by Thomas Tomkins, William Hayes and from early 16th century manuscripts, played on the reconstructed c1530 ‘Wetheringsett’, and the 1795 Grey organs by
John Scott: Gala opening recital
on William Drake’s reconstruction of the 1735 Richard Bridge Organ
in Christ Church, Spitalfields. 30 June 2015
In one of the highlights in the English organ world for many a year, William Drake’s reconstruction of the extraordinary 1735 Richard Bridge organ in Christ Church, Spitalfields was opened last night with a Gala Concert given by John Scott. John is one of the Patrons of the Friends of Christ Church Spitalfields, who for nearly 40 years have been fundraising for the restoration of this spectacular church as well as the Bridge organ.
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 London East London churches designed by the distinctive Baroque architect Nicholas Hawksmoor. The organ was built by Richard Bridge, one of the leading Continue reading
This is the listing of some of my forthcoming organ recitals from the very last issue of the now defunct Early Music Review diary, for many years put together by Helen Shabetai every month.
The recital in Worcester on 31 July will mostly be played on the ‘Wetheringsett’ organ, a reconstruction of a medieval English organ based on a fragment of an East Anglian organ dating from around 1525. Thomas Tomkins was organist at Worcester Cathedral. He was also an avid collector of earlier music, dating from around the time of the Wetheringsett organ. I will be playing music by Tomkins and from the earlier manuscripts that Tomkins owned and commented on – “A daynty fine verse” being just one of his comments. I will also play an Organ Concerto by William Hayes, an 18th century Worcester Cathedral organist, on the 1795 Gray organ. Continue reading
Sietze de Vries, organ
Fugue State Records/JSB Records FSRCD007. 79’37
Jacob Praetorius, Reincken, Bach and improvisation
The recent reconstruction of the famous Hamburg Katherininkirche organ was major landmark in the organ world. Its nickname of the ‘Bach organ’ (or ‘ an organ for Bach’) is misleading, and relates to the visit of Bach in 1720. But it could equally, and with far more accuracy, be described as the ‘Scheidemann’ or ‘Reincken’ organ (Katherininkirche organists for nearly 100 years from 1629-1722), both of whom had far more influence on its development, and whose music it better represents. Its roots go back to about 1400, and it had reached an advanced state by 1605 when Continue reading
Bach at Martinikerk, Groningen
Wim van Beek, organ
Fugue State Records/Helior FSRCD003. 2 CDs. 51’12+57’41
Bach: Clavierubung III
This is a recording made in 2006 of the famous organ in the Martinikerk, Groningen, one of the famous North German Baroque organs. Its roots lay in the mid-15th century 1450 with a rebuilding around 1482 by Johan ten Damme. The Gothic organ was rebuilt in Renaissance style in 1542 and further enlarged in 1628, 1690, 1691/2 (by Arp Schnitger), by Frans Caspar Schnitger and Hinsz in 1729/30 and 1740. After many poor re-buildings in the early 20th century, it was finally restored back to a 1740 state in 1984 by Jürgen Ahrend, retaining most of its early pipework, some dating back to 1542. It is seen by many as an ideal ‘Bach organ’, although more recent thinking has recognised that the very different Saxon and Thuringian organs are closer to the sound world of the mature Bach. But he was certainly influenced by these more northern instruments, particularly in his youth. Continue reading
Koororgal Martinikerk Groningen
Wim van Beek, organ
Helior HGWB02. 77’08.
DuMage, Clérambault, JS Bach, Mozart, CPE Bach, Zipoli, Daquin, Paradisi.
Although the Martinikerk choir organ was only acquired in 1939, it has a much earlier history. There are no records, but is seems that it was originally built around 1742 for the St Elisabethsdal cloister in the south Netherlands, probably by Jean-Baptiste Le Picard, the best known of the French family of organ builders. In 1799, during the French occupation, the cloister was closed, the organ and other furnishings sold off, and the church demolished. The two-manual organ was divided between two churches, Continue reading
L’organo a Firenze dai Medici all’Unità d’Italia
Tactus TC 860002. 79’03
This CD has been issued in celebration of the brief period, 150 years ago, when Florence was declared the capital of the Kingdom of Italy. Using the two historic organs in the San Lorenzo basilica, it covers the period from the time of the Medici family (who built San Lorenzo as their parish church and eventual mausoleum) to the Unification of Italy. The first half is played on a small Renaissance period organ, tuned in quarter-comma meantone, with pipework dating back to the 1450s, restored by Continue reading
Bach in Montecassino
Vivat 108. 69’12
This is a rather unexpected CD of Bach organ music played on a one-manual North Italian organ. But there is an interesting back-story. The pieces come from the Bach works collected by two 18th century scholars, Friedrich Wilhelm Rust and Padre Martini, who both played a part in what became the first collected edition of Bach’s works. After Rust visited the Abbey of Montecassino (south-east of Rome) and played the organ there (in 1766), he presented the Abbey organist with several Bach organ manuscripts. The Abbey Continue reading
J.S.Bach: Clavier-Übung III
Stephen Farr organ
The 1975 Metzler organ,Trinity College, Cambridge
Resonus Classics RES10120. 105’08
Bach’s Clavier-Übung III is one of his most important contributions to the whole organ repertoire. Published for ‘connoisseurs’ in 1739, the 27 pieces include music of the utmost intensity and contrapuntal complexity, alongside more approachable pieces such as the well-known ‘Giant’ Fugue, Wir glauben all an einen Gott. Bettina Varwig’s detailed programme notes reveal that this collection could be Bach’s defiant response to his critic, and former pupil, Scheibe who criticised him for writing in “an antiquated, bombastic style that eschewed the current taste for pleasant, natural, singable music”. It is about as far as he could get from that new style, one taken up with gusto by his son CPE Bach.
Stephen Farr’s choice of the 1975 Metzler organ in Trinity College, Cambridge, is a good one. An early UK example of continental organs designed with Continue reading
Organ Music before Bach
1736 Johann Jakob Hör organ, Pfarrkirche St. Katharina,Wolfegg, Germany
Deutsche Harmonia Mundi – Sony Music 8843040912. 78’37
Pachelbel Toccata in D Minor, Ciacona in D Minor, Fantasia in D Major (ex E-Flat Major), Vom Himmel hoch, da komm’ ich her, Toccata in G Minor, Ciacona in G Minor (ex F Minor), Fantasia in C Major, Toccata in C Major, Prelude in E Minor, Fugue in E Minor; Muffat Toccata prima, Ciacona in G Major, Toccata decimal; Fischer Ricercar pro Festis Pentecostalibus, Chaconne in F Major, Rigaudon & Rigaudon double, Passacaglia in D Minor; Kerll Passcaglia in D Minor; Froberger Ricercar in D Minor, FbWV 411, Canzon in G Major, FbWV 305, Meditation faist sur ma Mort future laquelle se joue lentement avec discretion, FbWV 611a
Despite the all-encompassing title of this CD, the focus is on German organ music before Bach and, more specifically, South German and Austrian music. The opening piece is by Pachelbel, an organist composer raised in the strict Lutheran tradition. But the Italian influence is immediately apparent. Like so many other Continue reading
Claude Ledoux: Notizen-Fragmente (2009/13)
Jean-Pierre Deleuze: Voici l’absence – Cinq déplorations en antiphonie (2011)
Cindy Castillo, organ, Aurélie Frank, voice
PARATY 114122. 69:39’
If ever an organ was designed for the performance of contemporary music, it is the 1981 Detlef Kleuker instrument in Notre-Dame des Grâces au Chant d’Oiseau in Brussels, designed by Jean Guillou as a successor to his 1978 ‘hand of God’ organ in Alpe d’Huez. In this CD, two talented young Belgian musicians perform works composed for them by Belgian composers Claude Ledoux and Jean-Pierre Deleuze. The combination of organ and solo female voice is a beguiling one. In this case it is enhanced by a generous acoustic, fascinating music, an extraordinary organ and excellent recording techniques (the engineer gets his own CV in the booklet) – and, of course, by the musically and technically virtuosic organ playing of Cindy Castillo (left) and singing of Aurélie Frank (below). Continue reading
Les ombres heureuses: Les organistes français de la fin de l’Ancien Régime Olivier Baumont (1748 Dom Bedos organ, Bordeaux & 1791 Érard-Fréres piano organize)
Radio France TEM316053. 63′ 31″
Music by Balbastre, Beauvarlet-Charpentier, Benaut, Corrette, A-L Couperin & Lasceux
The CD was so tightly jammed into the central jaws that it snapped in half as I tried to get it out of the box. However I found snippets of all the pieces on the internet. The period leading up to the French Revolution formed the technical peak of the French Classical organ although the music written for it didn’t reach similar heights. In France, the musical highlight came around 1700 with De Grigny, after which Continue reading