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Brilliant Classics

Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Organ Works

Prelude and Fugue on the name of B.A.C.H. S180/R24 (1855, rev. 1870)
Variations on "Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen" (Weeping, Lamenting, Sorrows, Fear) S180/R24 (1863)
Fantasia and Fugue on the chorale 'Ad nos, ad salutarem undam' (To us, to the water of salvation) S259/R380(1850); theme from Meyerbeer’s opera: Le Prophète
Hans-Jürgen Kaiser (organ)
Recorded in August 1997 on the Frederich Ladegast organ in Dom in Schwerin, Germany. DDD

Here we have yet another release devoted to organ works, this time from the Brilliant Classics label on one of their Super Audio discs. Most of the Brilliant Classics releases that I have heard comprised previously released material however this Liszt recital recorded in 1997 appears for the first time.

I found the accompanying booklet notes to be mainly incomprehensible with plenty of the label’s usual proof reading errors. This left me questioning the accuracy of the information that I did understand. From what I can gather from the booklet notes all three Liszt works have links with instruments made by renowned organ builder Friedrich Ladegast who also constructed the organ at Schwerin used on this recording. If the notes are accurate the Ladegast Schwerin organ was built circa 1870 and has four manuals and pedal with 84 stops. It is a powerful instrument with a glorious timbre that can vary from sweet and sensitive to luxurious and powerful.

World famous Hungarian born composer and piano virtuoso Franz Liszt worked in many genres although mainly associated with the solo piano, and with large-scale orchestral and choral works. However Liszt did write several works for the organ, an instrument that he frequently played. It has been said that Liszt was interested in playing the organ but that his expertise on the instrument was restricted owing to his ineffective use of the pedals, however other writers have remarked on Liszt’s mastery of the organ. Nevertheless Liszt’s relationship with organist and organ authority Johann Gottlob Topfer and his pupils stimulated a particular interest in the instrument. It is a commonly held view that Liszt’s organ works tend to reveal pianistic tendencies. This has been identified as a weakness although his ‘symphonic’ style of composition was developed by composers of the French School such as Franck, Widor et al.

The first work on this release is the mighty Prelude and Fugue on the name of B.A.C.H. which Liszt composed in 1855 and later revised in 1870. The work is based on a motif from the letters of Bach’s name in German notation and has become an established mainstay of the organ repertoire. Soloist Hans-Jürgen Kaiser gives an expansive and most committed performance of this enduring music which is intensely geared towards organ colour.

The Variations on "Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen" is widely regarded as a warhorse of organ repertoire. The work is constructed from the bass lines of a section from a J.S. Bach cantata of the same name and from part of Bach’s B minor Mass. Originally composed for piano Liszt later transcribed the work for organ in 1863. Hans-Jürgen Kaiser is a most persuasive interpreter displaying all the required authority and command.

The monumental Fantasia and Fugue on 'Ad nos, ad Salutarem, undam' (To us, to the water of salvation) which Liszt composed in 1850 uses some thematic material from Meyerbeer’s Opera: Le Prophète. The soloist’s reading is highly dramatic, relentlessly surging forwards in a magisterial performance. In particular, Kaiser’s playing of the twenty-five minute long Fantasia section demonstrates the supreme artistry of both organist and organ builder and is nothing less than awesome.

The sound quality of this Brilliant Classics SACD release is wonderful with a wide dynamic range. This is a luxurious and ardent tribute to a great composer. The playing from Hans-Jürgen Kaiser has a special authority and the disc is worthy of celebration.

Michael Cookson

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