This is an interesting
disc featuring music unknown to most outside Switzerland - and possibly
quite some organists within. Most of the music exhibits neo-classical
tendencies, ranging from Conrad Beck's Hindemith-like invention,
(in the first of the Zwei Praeludien at least), to the almost
Franz Schmidt-like 'happy' counterpoint of Max Kuhn and Paul
The best known work on
the CD though, proves also to be the finest. Placed at the
heart of the programme, Frank Martin's Passacaille receives
a marvellously taut reading from Filsell, the tension held,
as in a single breath, throughout the near-13 minute duration.
For the rest, I was slightly disappointed by the lack of variety.
The music in general is characterised, at best, by a sort
of acerbic rigour, which is sometimes charming - as in the
smaller works by Max Kuhn - but mostly rather unedifying.
I think it unlikely that anyone would go out to learn these
pieces; I was even disinclined to look at my copy of Honegger's
pair of pieces. A shame because the idea of Honegger writing
organ music is theoretically so appealing.
And yet I can't help feeling
that Jeremy Filsell, whose dedication to the repertoire is
very admirable and produces performances of insight, skill
and charisma, may have shot himself in the foot yet again
by choosing the wrong instrument. Here there is no question
of stylistic imbalance; the 1940/73/90 Kuhn organ in Kusnacht
has many neo-baroque registrational possibilities, and even
a reasonably effective Schwellwerk with pseudo-French, (ish)
reeds when required. But this is not an organ of any real
quality; it has nothing that makes you want to listen to it
for any length of time, not even that sort of 'truth-searching'
compelling quality so typical of the organs of Zachariassen
for instance. Here, the tutti is marred by the 'haircut' mixtures
- such a shame at the end of the Martin Passacaille to have
to endure this - none of the small combinations have any beauty,
and the acoustic is meagre. How much more this recording might
have aroused my interest had it been recorded on the famous
Metzler of the Grossmunster in Zurich, a Swiss 20th
century icon, and surely not a bad match for the music?
Well done to Guild for
recording some unknown repertoire. Well done to Jeremy Filsell
for some top-notch playing, but when can we hear you playing
a really first class instrument?