The three pieces by Müller-Zürich were published
together in 1970, but we are not told whether they were composed
as a short triptych as such or when they were actually written.
They nevertheless make a very satisfying group in Müller-Zürich’s
neo-classical idiom; fine and enjoyable in their own right.
Though he was born
and spent his life in France, Honegger retained his Swiss nationality,
hence his inclusion here. His Two Pieces for organ
are early works composed in 1917 and are his only organ pieces.
They display his utter seriousness of purpose that always placed
him slightly out of Les Six, at least stylistically and aesthetically
speaking. The rather slow and austere Fugue is complex and remarkably
assured, and shows the composer’s early contrapuntal mastery,
as is the Choral dedicated to Andrée Vaurabourg whom he married
some ten years later.
Frank Martin’s Passacaille
of 1944 is not only the most substantial work in this selection
but quite simply one of greatest Swiss organ works, that include
Norbert Moret’s monumental Gastlosen (1974) and
Beck’s Second Prelude heard here. However, the piece is probably
better known in the version for strings made in 1952 for Karl
Münchinger who recorded it many years ago in his only disc of
20th century music (DECCA LXT 5153, nla), and in
the orchestral version made in 1962 and recorded by the composer
(Jecklin JD 645-2) and more recently by Bamert (Chandos CHAN
9312). It is a demanding, but very rewarding piece in Martin’s
highly personal chromatic writing. Here it is accorded a fine
and committed reading that never fails to convince and impress.
The short Agnus Dei (1966) is a much simpler,
almost traditional work. I was not previously aware of its existence,
but finally found out that it is in fact an arrangement made
in 1966 of the Agnus Dei of the Mass for Double
Conrad Beck was
a prominent and prolific Swiss composer with a substantial output
in almost every genre. His music is still sadly and unjustly
neglected. For many long years, the only major work of his available
in a commercial recording was his Aeneas Silvius-Symphonie,
an impressive work in Beck’s Hindemith-indebted idiom. His Zwei
Präludien date from 1932. The first prelude is
short, but the sheer size and musical weight of the second (almost
of symphonic proportions) far exceed the limitations of the
Thanks to a couple
of earlier Guild records, the music of Max Kuhn is now somewhat
better known. The four organ pieces recorded here were probably
written at various times during his long composing life. They
are variants of the traditional Prelude and Fugue model, although
the later pieces Pastorale und Fuge (1976) and
Phantasie und Fuge (1975) broaden the genre formally
as well as stylistically. All are superbly made. I particularly
enjoyed the Pastorale und Fuge.
The other composers
represented here were chiefly known as organists; but they obviously
composed some fine music too. I liked Vollenweider’s bright
and alert Vorspiel that reminded me of the organ
music of Leighton or Mathias. Hess’s set of organ pieces was
published posthumously in 1970. The two pieces extracted here
are very fine; I really wish that the whole set had been recorded
even if it had to be at the expense of the rather traditional
pieces by Kuhn.
Jeremy Filsell plays
superbly throughout this generous programme of mostly unfamiliar
music and the recording is simply magnificent. I hope that this
release will be followed by other similar selections. Warmly
recommended and not for organ buffs alone.
see also Review
by Chris Bragg