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20th Century Swiss Organ Music
Paul MÜLLER-ZÜRICH (1898 – 1993)
Fantasia (1970) [3:33]
Canzone (1970) [1:45]
Introitus (1970) [4:29]
Arthur HONEGGER (1892 – 1955)
Deux Pièces (1917) [7:05]
Hans VOLLENWEIDER (1918 – 1993)
Vorspiel (1970) [2:32]
Frank MARTIN (1890 – 1974)
Passacaille (1944) [12:47]
Agnus Dei (1966) [4:04]
Ernst HESS (1912 – 1968)
Präludium Op.60/4 [2:22]
Chaconne Op.60/1 [3:29]
Conrad BECK (1901 – 1968)
Zwei Präludien (1932) [18:15]
Max KUHN (1896 – 1994)
Präludium und Fuge in C [2:30]
Pastorale und Fuge (1976) [2:36]
Präludium und Fuge in A [2:50]
Phantasie und Fuge (1975) [5:50]
Jeremy Filsell, organ of the evang.-ref. Kirche Küsnacht
rec. evang.-ref. Kirche, Küsnacht, November 2004
GUILD GMCD 7285 [74:58]

 

 

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 Choir (1922/6).

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 genre.

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.

Hubert Culot

see also Review by Chris Bragg

 

 



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