> Norbert Petry at the renaissance organ of Metz Cathedral [PW]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb-International

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Norbert Petry at the renaissance organ of Metz Cathedral
Glosas et Variations 1620

1. Jan Pietersz. SWEELINCK Ballo del Granduca 4’52"
2. More Palitino 3’59"
3. Malle Sijmen 1’24"
4. Mein Junges Leben hat ein End 6’37"

5. Samuel SCHEIDT Bergamasca 3’34"
6. Girolamo FRESCOBALDI Bergamasca 4’56"
7. Partita sopra l’aria della Romanesca 13’09"

8. Samuel SCHEIDT Alamanda in D 8’10"
9. Galiarda "Prinz of Denmark" 6’51"

10. Melchior SCHILDT Pavana Lachryme 4’52"
11. Heinrich SCHEIDEMANN Galiarda in D 4’49"
12. Francesco Correa de ARAUXO Tiento de medio registro de tiple XXXVIII 3’55"
13. Canto llano de la Immaculada concepcion, siguese tres glosas 4’43"

Recordings made in Metz Cathedral in July and August 1991
K617 ‘ORGUES DE MOSELLE’ K617014 [74.18]


Experience Classicsonline

Everybody interested in music knows that the word ‘organ’ goes into sentences very near the word ‘boring’, and, indeed, there is nothing like a dull recording of foggy flues and blaring reeds swimming in too much acoustic to put the listener off rapidly. What one does not often expect is an organ recording of an instrument that is full of character and complexity of sound, recorded in an ambient and spacious acoustic that does not at all deprive it of clarity. K617 have managed to achieve just that in this remarkably interesting disc of early 17th century music played on the organ in the Cathedral of St Etienne in Metz. This is an instrument dating from 1537. Unfortunately for English monoglots the booklet only contains information about the instrument, and a lengthy article about the Cathedral, in French, although there are informative notes about the programme in English.

The 17th century was, of course, one of the most interesting eras of music, and saw huge advances in the art of organ playing; this was the era of Buxtehude, Bach’s great inspiration, and although there is no Buxtehude on this disc (he is well recorded elsewhere) the composers here are all masters of the keyboard art. Sweelinck’s variations are justifiably famous and Norbert Petry gives colourful renditions of the well-known ‘Ballo del Granduca’ and ‘Mein Junges Leben hat ein End’ with much variation of not only registration but tempo and phrasing as well, showing subtlety in the gentle pulling-around of the phrase endings. This is never contrived, but just gives the music time to settle and breathe. (Sample 1)

The other big work is Frescobaldi’s marvellous Partita on the Romanesca, a pattern of bass notes and associated harmonies that was one of the popular formulae for 17th century composers and/or performers to make variations upon. Again Petry has complete command of the instrument and the ability to transcend the appearance of it as a mechanical medium and really make it sing.

Throughout the recording there is a sense of clarity in the recorded sound that is distinctly impressive, especially given the position of the instrument halfway up the wall of the cathedral. Finding the balance between hearing the individual notes, without making the organ sound like it is in a studio (not mention swamping the sound with the clattering action noise so common to ancient organs) and maintaining the sense of space and grandeur that comes from the building is no easy task. K617 have done well in this balance. While the clarity is lovely, there is also something of real magic in the space too. The Tiento de medio registro de tiple XXXVIII by Arauxo (Sample 2) brings to mind the image of expectation as the organist improvises in the cathedral while waiting for the start of a great procession. Once again, the dexterity of articulation in Norbert Petry’s playing is consistently impressive. Having mentioned above the blaring nature of too many organ reeds it is interesting to note the difference in ancient French reeds. (Sample 3). There is still the feel of power but a thicker, more buzzing timbral quality gives much more cohesion to the sound of the reeds in the overall tonal scheme. One can hear where Cavaillé-Coll might have got the idea of his characteristic French reed choruses in the 19th century. Sample 3 also gives an impression of the wonderful acoustic. Overall, this is a fascinating disc of great music, well recorded and played with real skill and flair. Excellent listening and highly recommendable, even to non organ fans.

Peter Wells


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