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19th Century Organ and Choral Music
Theophil FORCHHAMMER (1847-1923)

Sonate Nr.2 in e-Moll, op.15 ‘Zur Todtenfeier’ (pub. 1886) [25:04]
Aus Acht Choralbearbeitungen, op.11 (pub. 1887)
Es ist gewisslich an der Zeit [2:00]
Jesus meine Zuversicht [2:33]
Theodor KIRCHNER (1823-1903)

Aus Orgelkompositionen, op.89 (pub. 1890) [14:33]
Benedict JUCKER (1811-1876)

Aus Neun Coral-Vorspiele, op.7 (1867)
Mein Jesu den die Seraphinen [2:43]
O’ wie so gar sanftmüthig [2:03]
Ach bleib mit deiner Gnade [2:22]
Josef Gabriel RHEINBERGER (1839-1901)

Messe in f-Moll, op.159 für Chor und Orgel (1889) [22:04]
Ursna Caflisch (organ)
Cantus Firmus/Clau Scherrer
Rec. Katholische Pfarrkirche Ilanz, 27-31 October 2004
GUILD GMCD 7290 [74:36]

It took me a while to decide whether or not I liked this CD. The Organ of the Katholische Pfarrkirche is a grand modern instrument from 2001 by Kuhn, whose booklet picture makes it look a little like the headboard from a very heavy Victorian bed. The Katholische Pfarrkirche looks quite modest by comparison, and the acoustic bears this impression out, erring a little too much on the dry side to smooth off the gruff edges of this powerful music machine. The disposition, proportions and intonation are apparently consistent with Swiss organ building principles from around 1850 however, and so we are promised a measure of authenticity.

Having become accustomed to the rather ‘in your face’ organ sound, I found it not inappropriate to the music presented here. While unwilling to attempt to find some transitional category for this music, the booklet accurately describes it as ‘the attempts of composers to revive the great traditions of the Baroque, or reconcile them with the new expressive and harmonic resources of Romanticism.’ Forchhammer’s work is very much grounded in that of J.S Bach, and this is of course apparent in his gently restrained Chorale settings. The Sonate ‘Zur Todtenfeier’ (for a burial ceremony) with which the CD opens is a far more dramatic affair, with Lisztian heroism and Germanic counterpoint contrasting with a kind of Mendelssohnian pastoral lyricism.

Theodor Kirchner rubbed shoulders with Mendelssohn and Brahms, and possibly a little more than just shoulders with the Schumanns. The works here are drawn from the miscellaneous op.89 collection and are largely lyrical and expressive in character. Pre-echoes are a delicious feature of these kinds of pieces: take the first bar or so of Langsam (track 10), slow it almost to infinity and what do you have? Arvo Pärt, or I’m a Dutchman.

Benedict Jucker provides us with some nice Chorale Preludes – Bach with a sprinkling of extra chromaticism here and there, but the jewel in the crown of this CD is of course the Rheinberger Mass. Josef Rheinberger was apparently such a musical Wunderkind that he was appointed organist at his parish church at the age of seven. The version for organ and chorus is the original, but this work has appeared in an arrangement for chorus and orchestra; an indication of the works justified popularity in the past. While the opening Kyrie is rich with sinuous chromaticism many of the other movements are models of choral clarity and uncomplicated organ accompaniment. Cantus Firmus are well recorded and with an ideal balance between the voices and the organ. Their tuning is impeccable, and while their enunciation and articulation is disciplined and effective, I sense that the conductor might have gone a little over the top by bringing out the ‘sss’ consonants quite so much – good for live performance, less necessary with microphones in proximity.

Like the dried wreaths in a Paris crypt, the music on this CD is tantalisingly evocative. Very much of its era, the pieces will be greatly of interest to those seeking the less well-trodden byways of romantic organ repertoire, and as such this recording deserves a firm recommendation.

Dominy Clements



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