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Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Complete Organ Music, Volume 1
Prelude and Fugue in C minor, Opus 37 No. 1  (1833) [7.37]
Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Opus 65 (1839) [17.33]
Praeludium in D minor (1820) [5.24]
Chorale Prelude in E minor: Nom von uns, Herr (1830) [3.28]
Fugue in E minor (1839) [3.21]
Duett Fugue in D major (with Martin Stacey) (1835 [3.56]
Fughetta in A major (1840) [2.08]
Andante and Variations in D major (1844) [5.36]
Four Studies for organ (1844) [15.35]
Allegro assai in C major (1845) [3.34]
Jennifer Bate (organ)
rec. July-October 2004; All Saints Church, Margaret Street, London; St John’s Church, Upper Norwood, London; St Matthew’s Church, Bayswater, London; St Stephen’s Church, Bournemouth; Temple Church, Fleet Street, London; Wimborne Minster, Dorset
SOMM SOMMCD050 [72.25]


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Over recent years Jennifer Bate has gained a justified reputation as one of the most important organists of our time, and in the first of five volumes she explores the complete organ music of Mendelssohn. The project features both newly-discovered works and some that have been recorded for the first time. Therefore this is an important production, extending our understanding of a composer who all too often can be under-valued.

Mendelssohn was a prolific composer, and like all prolific composers he is widely known by only a fragment of his output. This is inevitable; but we should never make the mistake of assuming that music we do not know is music we do not need to know. Inevitably, however, the unknown music contains more than a proportion of experiments and trifles. But no matter; for everything that is created by a great artist is of interest to succeeding generations.

With a project such as this, the organization of the repertoire is an important issue. It is by no means clear how the programmes were determined, but there appears to have been a decision to create varied repertoire for each disc, rather than deal with principal works first and then add appendices, or to embark upon a chronological survey.

Mendelssohn was the ultimate child prodigy, producing a wealth of worthwhile music of lasting value while he was still a teenager. For example, masterpieces such as the Octet for Strings and the Overture to A Midsummer Night’s Dream were written by the end of his 17th year. Even so, it seems hard to make much of a case for the Praeludium in D minor of 1820, the earliest of the pieces contained in this volume: worthy rather than inspired, perhaps.

At the opposite extreme come two major masterpieces: the Prelude and Fugue in C minor and the Sonata No. 1. Jennifer Bate realizes these with consummate artistry. For example, her judgement of articulation in the fugue allows every aspect of the texture to make its mark, while at the same time maintaining the pulse. And in the Sonata, the balance of the different tempi among the movements creates a most satisfying whole.

Six different organs are used among this survey, and full details of them are included in the booklet, to which Jennifer Bate herself has contributed fully. While the less celebrated music does not contain (in this collection at least) a blazing discovery, it is all well written and sensitively played. The recorded sound, venue by venue, is thoroughly satisfactory, with impact as required and atmosphere too. The organ of Wimborne Minster, featured in the Prelude and Fugue that opens the programme, sounds particularly well.

Terry Barfoot








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