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  Classical Editor Rob Barnett    

Abraham Van den KERCKHOVEN (1618-1701)
Organ works

  1. Fantasia en fa majeur
  2. Fantasia Cornet en ut majeur,
  3. Fuga en sol majeur,
  4. Preludium et Fuga en ré mineur,
  5. Fantasia en mi mineur,
  6. Fantasia en sol majeur pour le dessus de tierce,
  7. Fantasia Pro Duplici Organo en ré majeur,
  8. Fuga en sol mineur,
  9. Fantasia en ut mineur pour le dessus de Cromorne,
  10. Preludium et Fuga en sol majeur,
  11. Fantasia en ré mineur pour le dessus de Cornet,
  12. Fuga en la mineur,
  13. Fantasia en ut mineur, fond d’ orgue,
  14. Preludium et Fuga en ré mineur, grand jeu.
François Houtart, Organist
Organ by: Westenfelder, 1995, Luxembourg Cathedral, Luxembourg
Recorded: September 1995


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Abraham Van den Kerckhoven (1618-1701) was one of the well-known, well-paid musicians who worked in Brussels. From 1632 he served as an organist at St Catharine’s church, a post he kept for nearly seventy years! All of his works are ‘in the form of a voluminous manuscript acquired by the Bibliothèque Royale Albert 1er of Brussels’. Most of them were used in liturgy and thus they are quite short. Some similarities with the French classical style, implying the chosen registrations are obvious in the titles of some of them.

The performed pieces of this CD ‘are of a much more eloquent nature’ from the others on the same manuscript. They are lyrical with flowing, virtuosic passages, but their form is not as strict as one should expect from pieces of the same genre. On the contrary, they represent a cosmopolitan composer of multiple influences: Anglo-Dutch, French, Italian and Flemish.

The booklet is quite informative on this issue, which is necessary for music that is not well known. The music is played on the Westenfelder organ, which ‘combines characteristics of the French classical organ, while incorporating elements of the Dutch and Spanish styles’. It is not though an organ that succeeds in keeping the listener’s interest all way through. The foundation and reed stops have a ‘steel’ sound quality, whereas the flutes are not soft and melodic enough.

Houtart’s playing in this CD does not reveal a good musical quality. His chosen registrations do not seem to work on the specific organ and according to the pieces’ needs. His articulation is too much detached and the musical phrases are not well shaped. Certainly this music and the specific organ need the performer’s help in order to sound good, but unfortunately Houtart has not achieved that goal.

Christina Antoniadou


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