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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

Paul MÜLLER-ZÜRICH (1898 – 1993)
Organ Concerto Op.28 (1938, rev. 1978)a
Toccata in C Op.12 (1923)
Willy BURKHARD (1900 – 1955)

Sonatina for Organ Op.52 (1938)
Adolf BRUNNER (1901 – 1992)

Pfingstbuch (1936/7)
Hans SCHAEUBLE (1906 – 1988)

Präludium Op.15 (1930, rev. 1976)
Jeremy Bines (organ)
Kammerorchester Basela/Christopher Hogwooda
Recorded: Neumünster, Zürich, May 2002 DDD
GUILD GMCD 7253 [61:30]


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The four composers represented in this interesting selection of Swiss organ music from the first half of the 20th Century are all roughly contemporary, although Paul Müller-Zürich is the ‘Grand Old Man’ here. He is also the only one to be represented by two works of his early maturity. The short and quite brilliant Toccata in C Op.12 displays the composer’s Neo-classical leanings, still more evident in the beautiful Organ Concerto Op.28, completed in the late 1930s and revised as late as 1978. Here is music of formal clarity and harmonic refinement, by turns lyrical (as in the beautiful slow movement) and rhythmically alert and lively (as in the outer movements). It is effectively and economically scored for organ and strings, which makes it a perfect companion piece to Poulenc’s masterly Organ Concerto in G. In spite of some common characteristics, both pieces are of an essentially different musical and emotional character and, as such, complement each other.

Willy Burkhard’s name may be more familiar, although – I am afraid – his music is not, at least outside Switzerland. His Sonatina Op.52, composed in 1938, is in the typical Neo-classical mould, and has much in common with Müller-Zürich’s concerto. Again, formal clarity, clear-cut themes, refined harmonies and lightness of touch are much in evidence in a delightful work that should definitely be heard more often.

However, Adolf Brunner’s first major organ work Pfingstbuch über den Choral "Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist" (to give it its full title) completed between 1936-1937 is the most substantial work here. It may globally be considered as a large-scale fantasy in variation form on the Whitsun chorale. Its multi-sectional structure is intricately worked-out. The chorale is stated after a short preamble based on the chorale. There follows a partita and a weighty passacaglia capped by a restatement of the chorale. Though it is, musically speaking, fairly traditional, Brunner’s music is characterised by clarity of form and often transparent harmonies. This is a significant work and an impressive achievement. The excellent insert notes mention this as the first of Brunner’s four major organ works, and I hope that Jeremy Bines and Guild will go on recording the others.

Hans Schaeuble may be familiar, though his music does not often feature either in concerts or in recordings. A few months ago, though, Guild released a fine disc of Swiss concertos for wind instruments including Schaeuble’s finely wrought Concertino for Flute and Strings Op.47 (Guild GMCD 7250). His Präludium Op.15 (or rather "from Op.15") recorded here is what remains of a large-scale work with the collective title of Geistliche Abendmusik which consisted of an organ Introduction (later re-titled Präludium), a cantata, choral variations for organ and a motet. The composer was seemingly dissatisfied with the work as a whole but has retained a real liking of the majestic Prelude, which he revised on several occasions. We hear the final version first performed in 1980. He made an orchestral version of this movement which was premiered in 1941 by Ernest Ansermet.

This beautifully engineered disc is another welcome release exploring much unfamiliar but worthwhile music; well worth more than the occasional hearing. Fairly traditional stuff in the best German tradition of organ music, maybe, but well made and utterly sincere. Excellent performances throughout, and the production is again up to Guild’s best.

Hubert Culot



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