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Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Complete Organ Music, Volume 2
Sonata No. 2 in C minor, Opus 65 (1839) [11.06]
Sonata No. 6 in D minor, Opus 65 (1842) [15.13]
Fugue in G minor (1820) [2.41]
Fugue in D minor (1834) [4.20]
Fugue in C minor (1839) [4.14]
Chorale and Variation in D minor (1840)† [5.18]
Allegro in D major (1844) [5.08]
Allegro in A flat major (1844) [3.38]
Allegro moderato maestoso in C major (1844) [2.16]
Allegro con brio in B flat† major (1845) [4.45]
Fugue in B flat major (1845) [4.35]
Andante recitativo in F minor (1845) [4.22]
Jennifer Bate (organ)
Recorded November 2003, September 2004; All Saints Church, Margaret Street, London; St Johnís Church, Upper Norwood, London; St Matthewís Church, Bayswater, London; St Stephenís Church, Bournemouth; Temple Church, Fleet Street, London; Wimborne Minster, Dorset
SOMM SOMMCD051 [69.01]



The second volume of Jennifer Bateís Mendelssohn survey is dominated by the Second and Sixth Organ Sonatas. Together these take up nearly half of the seventy minutes the disc contains; but artistically they stand heard and shoulders above the other, miniature, items gathered in this collection.

It is when confronting a project such as this that one realises the nature of the creative life of† a prolific composer. Mendelssohn was undoubtedly that, though of course we only know him for a fragment of his output. The pair of sonatas that open the programme are masterly works, and the Sonata No. 6 is particularly individual and striking. Recorded in the ample acoustic of St Johnís Upper Norwood, the varied tones and shadings come across particularly well, so too the dynamic range. The first movement is an impressive chorale and four variations, as fine a movement for the instrument as Mendelssohn composed. The approach, with its obvious homage to Bach and the German tradition, was clearly one that suited Mendelssohn well, and Jennifer Bate sensitively brings its myriad possibilities to the listenerís attention, with beautifully articulated phrasing and crystal-clear control of textures.

This imaginative opening movement is followed by two fugal movements, each identified by relatively slow tempi; but the last of the variations is an Allegro molto, so overall the sonata has plenty of variety.

The Sonata No. 2 is hardly less fine. It is often more massive in tone, such as in its introductory section before the main material is released. Then the second half of the piece shows abundant vitality, in which Jennifer Bate clearly revels. Here again the Somm engineers achieve miracles clarity, though using a different organ on this occasion: The Temple Church in Fleet Street.

The remainder of the programme is made of a succession of short pieces, some of them from unfinished projects. One of these is more fragmentary than the others: the Chorale in D minor with Variation, probably composed in the summer of 1840 but left aside when other priorities took over. Jennifer Bate has provided her own completion, and even the ear attuned to Mendelssohnís style in this repertoire would be challenged to detect another hand at work.

Mendelssohnís love of Bach underpins much of his organ music, of course, and it is interesting therefore to hear an early Fugue, written in 1820 when the composer was just eleven years old. It is no masterpiece but it is technically assured. Much the same can be said of the remaining items on the programme, which all date from the mid-1840s. It is sometimes suggested that Mendelssohnís genius was on the wane by then, but the creation of the Violin Concerto and the oratorio Elijah provide strong contradiction to that view.

These collected organ works are interesting rather than inspired, in the sense that the two sonatas are inspired. But a complete survey such as this does Mendelssohn honour and he is a great composer, and it is always worth exploring the achievements of great composers.

Terry Barfoot








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