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Ferdinando PAËR (1771 – 1839)
Concerto in D major (1795)
Jean LANGLAIS (1907 – 1991)

Choral médiéval Op.29
Thème, Variations et Finale (1937)
Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844 – 1937)

Salvum fac populum tuum (1916)
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 – 1750)

Prelude from cantata Wir danken dir, Gott BWV 29 (1737)
Franz Hauk (organ)
The Georgian Chamber Orchestra, Ingolstadt/Markus Poschner
Recorded: Liebfrauenmünster, Ingolstadt, September-October 2002
GUILD GMCD 7264 [70:53]


Unlike other instalments in Guild’s ongoing series of recordings of works for organ and orchestra which I reviewed some time ago, this new release is somewhat different in that the works recorded here belong to quite different musical periods. The disc opens with Paër’s Concerto in D major composed about 1794-1795, probably for the inauguration of a new organ at the Oratorio della SS. Trinita in Parma, which is cast in a completely traditional mould and in a classical idiom. It is nonetheless a substantial and attractive work of some nobility. The closing item is the Prelude from Bach’s cantata Wir danken dir, Gott BWV 29 which ends this programme in an appropriately bright, festive mood.

More recent pieces (i.e. from the 20th Century) are included, which makes this disc the more desirable. The earliest of these is Widor’s Salvum fac populum tuum for organ, three trumpets, three trombones and side drum. This was composed in 1916, possibly in anticipation of the end of World War I. For obvious reasons, Widor conducted the first performance six days after the end of the war in Notre-Dame on November 17th, 1918. The title is borrowed from the Te Deum, but the piece – to the best of my knowledge – does not quote any plainsong tune. It takes the form of a solemn processional with strong march rhythms and broad tunes, thankfully full of restraint and free from any jingoism. A dignified, deeply felt work for all its brevity.

Langlais, whose splendid Third Concerto featured in Guild GMCD 7240 which I reviewed here some time ago, is represented by two hitherto unpublished works. His short Choral médiéval for organ, three trumpets and three trombones (we are not told when this was composed) is based on the Kyrie of the third choral mass Deus sempiterne and ends with a brief statement of Victimae paschali laudes. His Thème, Variations et Final, completed in 1937, is an altogether more substantial work. It is scored for strings, three trumpets and three trombones, and is roughly cast as a grand passacaglia opening with the sombre, brooding theme in the basses. The contrasted variations follow in quick succession and are capped by the concluding fugue enlivened by the brilliance of the brass contributions. The insert notes, excellent as usual, do not make it clear, but it seems that Langlais reworked the piece in 1961 to make it his Second Organ Concerto (organ and strings, without any brass). Maybe some reader might prove me wrong... or right? Anyway, this is a worthwhile addition to Langlais’s discography and one that his admirers will want to have.

The most recent work here is Enjott Schneider’s Echo – Concerto for Organ and Strings which was first performed in 2002 and probably completed about that time. The composer describes his work as an "unproblematic organ concerto" roughly inspired by the myth of the mountain nymph Echo and her unrequited love for Narcissus. Echo is in three movements, a long slow movement ("Echo and Narcissus") framed by a lilting Dance and a lively Finale. The music is clear-cut, direct and accessible in a Neo-classical manner, though the organ part may not be as easy as expected, particularly so in the outer movements. It sometimes brought to mind the happy music making displayed in Hans-André Stamm’s Organ Concerto, another accessible and enjoyable candidate for Guild’s series of organ concertos.

The present release is yet another fine instalment in this Guild series which will hopefully go on exploring this unfamiliar but often quite rewarding repertoire. Hauk’s readings, more than ably supported by the orchestra and Guild’s overall production, are superb throughout. Again, the recording team successfully mastered the reverberating acoustics of Ingolstadt’s Liebfrauenmünster. More of this, please. Warmly recommended.

Hubert Culot


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