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This Time It’s Personal
Herbert BREWER (1865-1928)
Marche Héroïque [7:01]
C. S. LANG (1891-1971)
Tuba Tune [2:21]
George THALBEN-BALL (1896-1987)
Elegy [5:02]

Leon BOELLMANN (1862-1897)
Priere from Suite Gothique [4:28]

Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Wer nur den lieben Gott lasst walten, BWV 642 [1:50]; Mein Seele erhebet den Herren, BWV 648 [3:07]; O Mensch bewein’ dein’ Sunde gross, BWV622 [5:01]; Christ lag in Todesbanden, BWV 625 [1:05]; Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BWV 645 [3:47]; Ich ruf’ zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ, BWV 639 [2:58]; Ebarm Dich Mein o Herre Gott, BWV 721 [5:34]

William ALBRIGHT (1944-1998)
Sweet 16ths [4:17]

Sigfrid KARG-ELERT (1877-1933)
Three pieces from Sketches for Organ: (Evening [1:54]; Sundown [1:45]; Gossip [1:10])
Louis VIERNE (1870-1937)
Impromptu from 24 Pieces en Style Libre [3:36]
Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844-1937)
Adagio from Organ Symphony No. 5 [5:20]
John Walter BRATTON (1867-1947)
(arranged for organ by Stephen J. Ketterer) Teddy Bear’s Picnic [1:59]
Andrew WRIGHT (b. 1955)
Paean [3:10]

Stephen Ketterer (organ)
rec. Edgewood, Washington, Connecticut, 3 October 2006. DDD
MSR CLASSICS MS 1225 [65:29]

Gosh, this is out of left-field. The story goes something like this. Stephen Ketterer is the president of a pharmaceuticals company specialising in HIV/AIDS research. A keen organist since the age of 14, and not being constrained by the financial limitations of trying to earn a living playing the instrument, Mr Ketterer added a very large  music room to his house and then commissioned Rudolph von Beckerath to build a three manual organ - 33 stops, with a 16’ Principal in the façade - to his design. 

The tonal design of the organ is bizarre enough, including a Principal Céleste in Great, and a solo division as the third manual with the following, highly unlikely specification: 

Flûte Harmonique  8’
Cor de Nuit  4’
Cymbale II  1/3’
Cornet  V
Englische Horn 16’
Cromorne 8’
Tremblant 

Make of that what you will. As if the multi-lingual approach wasn’t confusing enough! Strange that Mr Ketterer would turn to Beckerath of all people to make a  ‘Neo-Classical with buttons on’ organ when several American builders have extended the neo-classical - and then from a far more highly informed standpoint - into a stunningly mature eclectic style (Fritts, Pasi et al). Also strange given the obvious preferred repertoire of Mr Ketterer that he should buy an organ with such a neo-classical leaning at all. 

The quality of the organ is good but not first rate. The Swell reeds have a rough quality, (were they really voiced on site?) and fight horribly with the too-high Swell mixture (track 1 @ 0’10 among others). The Great chorus is good but not special, the strings pretty. The whole rather lacks poetry. This is an organ built in a factory and not in a workshop. 

What of Stephen Ketterer’s playing? Well, you have to say, for someone who spends the majority of his life doing something else, its pretty impressive, and I have reviewed discs here by professional organists who couldn’t play at this level. The choice of repertoire is, barring the Bach, pretty vapid in general, but I can honestly say that the only track which truly gives the game away is ‘O Mensch bewein’ BWV 622 where the ornaments are persistently clumsy and upset the rhythm. For the rest the playing is solid, if sometimes rather naïve. Whether Mr Ketterer considers himself to be a professional organist or not, I’m not sure. He mentions having studied with Donald Sutherland, the head of organ at Peabody, but whether this was within the context of an organ degree we’re not told. 

The programme notes, incidentally, tell us nothing about the music at all, only about Mr Ketterer’s friends each of whom he associates with one or other piece of music presented here. Its all toe-curlingly twee, and, unless you happen to know the artist and his friends personally, its not going to improve your day. 

This is only recommendable for novelty value then, although, as you can probably tell, its hard not to be just a little jealous - alright I admit it!

Chris Bragg

 


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