> Berj Zamkochian organ recital ZC040794 [DW]: Classical Reviews- February 2002 MusicWeb-International

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Organ Recital.

REUBKE Sonata on the 94th Psalm
MENDELSSOHNSonata no. 1 in F minor
REGER Weihnachten
Berj Zamkochian (organ)


Experience Classicsonline

The award afforded to this recording is well deserved. The prize was the 1987 Grande Prix du Disc. It was originally recorded in 1980 and has been digitally remastered.

Berj Zamkochian is a splendid organist, born in Boston, who has made many tours and been active in the concert scene for very many years.

What thrills me about this recording, and it really does to the extent of unmitigating joy, is that the Reubke sonata which is only of the most difficult works for the organist to play, if not the most difficult, is given the best ever performance I have heard. It is simply staggering. What a player! When the excruciatingly difficult passages come he does not slow down or make allowances or excuses. He maintains the tempo with an explosive excitement. If the greatest piano work is the Liszt Piano Sonata, and well it might be, this is the equivalent for the organ. Although the Liszt sonata is very difficult to play this organ sonata is harder still and there are the feet to worry about.

The organs are superb and the choice of registration is faultless. The organ for the Reubke is the Klais Organ, Ruhr, St Maria Geburt Mulhelm in Germany having three manuals and 49 stops.

The organ for the Mendelssohn and Reger is the Austin organ at St Joseph’s cathedral in Hartford, Connecticut and some listeners may find the power in the Mendelssohn to be a little too much. Mendelssohn is often regarded as a felicitous composer but what majesty Zamkochian brings to the often hackneyed piece.

The slow movement is on another plane. Anything by Reger is welcome. A sumptuous performance of the Christmas piece shows us the marvellous expressive qualities that this organist has.

Julius Reubke was born on 23 March 1834 the son of an organ builder. Julius died on 3 June 1858. He was just 24. He had lessons with Liszt and, in addition to this Organ Sonata, he wrote a Piano Sonata. Reubke divides the 94th psalm into four sections. The opening Grave deals with the psalmist’s pleas for vengeance on the proud. The larghetto leading to an allegro begins with a question, How long will the wicked prosper? (indeed) and proceeds to lament the injustices perpetrated on the widows and fatherless. The Adagio is a request for comfort in adversity and the final allegro is full of confidence and the certain knowledge that the Lord will triumph over all the wicked. In the end God will be seen to be supreme.

The Mendelssohn is the first of his six organ sonatas Opus 65 and those musical detectives among you will hear the obvious connection between this and the glorious Violin Concerto. The first movement of the F minor sonata quotes the chorale, What God wills, shall always be done. As already said the slow movement is very beautiful and the work ends triumphantly. We tend to forget that Mendelssohn was a fine organist. It still beats me why he is still so unfashionable. It seems to me that he is acknowledged rather than admired.

Two tiny quibbles. The disc is called Romantic Organ Works. Really? Historically, I suppose so. Secondly, the print on the fold-over notes was hard to read as white on black often is. Our eyes are not what they used to be! A super disc .... very exciting! And that’s an understatement!

David Wright


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