> EBEN Job for organ [CT]: Classical CD Reviews- Oct 2002 MusicWeb(UK)

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Petr EBEN (b. 1929)
Job for Organ

Tomáö Thon (organ) Moshe Yegar (narrator)
Recorded at the Church of Ascension of the Virgin Mary, Opava 26/27 May 1995 DDD
SUPRAPHON SU 0181-2 931 [57:59]


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For a composer of the quality of Petr Eben his music is still shamefully under represented in the catalogue although thankfully the organ music, which forms such an important part of the composerís output, is now largely available through three fine volumes on Hyperion. In point of fact with this particular work it was Supraphon who got there first, releasing Tomáö Thonís recording of Job in 1996 to be followed by Halgeir Schiagerís performance (albeit recorded in 1993) as the first of Hyperionís three volumes a few years later.

Not surprisingly for a composer who has produced organ music in such quantities and who himself is a fine player, Eben is masterful in his writing for the instrument. The effects and textural range of his palette are at times spectacular, the more contemplative moments often hauntingly serene. Church music and biblical subjects are another central thread running through Ebenís output and in the Old Testament story of Job, as with Vaughan Williams in his Masque for Dancing (strangely the opening movement of Ebenís work has a fleeting similarity to passages from the Vaughan Williams work although that is where the comparison ends), Eben found a subject that allowed him to exploit to great musical effect the considerable opportunities for dramatisation effect the story affords.

Cast in eight sections, the Supraphon recording intersperses the movements with corresponding readings from the Old Testament by Moshe Yegar in Hebrew. The fanfare and toccata of the opening movement, "Destiny", give an immediately powerful statement of the composerís dramatic intentions, whilst in the ensuing "Faith", the humble opening chorale is soon shattered as Job is struck with the first of the many misfortunes that afflict him and his family, the mood returning to contemplation at the close as Job refuses to denounce his faith. Jobís persistence continues in "Acceptance of Suffering", given particular poignancy by Ebenís use of the Bach chorale "Wer nur den Gott lässt walten" and contrasted in stark terms by the anguished outcry at the opening, violently and vividly onomatopoeic in its use of clusters and glissandi and fabulously played by Thon. The ensuing Passacaglia, "Longing for Death", charts the cumulative impact of Jobís despair as he is slowly ground down, magnificently dramatised by Eben in music of ever increasing power and complexity. The "Despair and Resignation" of the fifth movement is followed by Godís depiction of the creation to Job, questioning at first, then highly animated as Jobís vision is brought to life, only to be questioned again at the close. Only in "Penitence and Realisation", does Job begin to understand the message from God, Eben reflecting this in musical terms by quoting once again, this time using the plainsong Veni Creator Spiritus. The finale, "Godís Reward", brings the work to a blazingly triumphant conclusion in the form of a set of variations on another chorale melody, "Christ, the model of humility".

Where Supraphon give us Old Testament readings, the rival Hyperion performance couples the four movement Laudes and Homage to Dietrich Buxtehude, giving a total playing time of seventy-two minutes. Generous compared to the short thrift of the Supraphon at a second under fifty-eight minutes and reduced considerably further in musical terms by the inclusion of the readings, which it must be said, are only likely to be of any benefit to fluent speakers of Hebrew of which I am not one. For these reasons alone (Laudes and Homage to Buxtehude are also fine pieces in their own right) I cannot recommend the Supraphon disc over the Hyperion although the performances of Job in both cases are unquestionably fine.

Christopher Thomas


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