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Kay Johannsen (organ)
Lieder zu Advent und Weihnachten
Macht hoch die Tür [2:04]
Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland [1:57]
Ihr lieben Christen, freut euch nun [1:15]
O Heiland, reiss die Himmel auf [1:40]
Es kommt ein Schiff, geladen [2:06]
O komm, o komm, du Morgenstern [1:33]
Wie soll ich dich empfangen [3:17]
Die Nacht ist vorgedrungen [2:22]
Tochter Zion, freue dich [1;36]
Von Himmel hoch, da komm ich her [2:25]
Es ist ein Ros entsprungen [2:41]
Kommt und lasst uns Christus ehren [1:27]
Brich an, du schönes Morgenlicht [1:28]
Lobt Gott, ihr Christen all gleich [1:17]
Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ [2:32]
Nun singet und seid froh [1:15]
Zu Bethlehem geboren [2:31]
Kommet, ihr Hirten [1:31]
Herbei, o ihr Gläub’gen [1:18]
Ihr Kinderlein, kommet [1:17]
Ich steh an deiner Krippen hier [2:56]
Fröhlich soll mein Herze springen [1:57]
Hört, der Engel helle Lieder [2:12]
Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht [4:55]
O du fröhliche [1:58]
Kay Johannsen
Mühleisen organ, Stiftskirche, Stuttgart
rec. 9-10, 12, 15 October 2005. DDD
CARUS 83.179 [51:30]


A delight and a joy from beginning to end!

Johannsen is an accomplished interpreter of the great works of the organ canon. He has made well-received recordings of works by Bach,  Mendelssohn, Liszt, Franck, Widor and others. Having studied in Freiburg and Boston, Johannsen has, since 1994, been the organist and choirmaster of the Stiftskirche of Stuttgart. In that capacity he played an important role in the commissioning of a new organ from the well-known firm of Mühleisen, an instrument completed in 2004. The technical dimensions of the instrument are extensively detailed in the CD booklet - which is attractively illustrated, but annotated exclusively in German - and are discussed in the review by Chris Bragg (see link below). Chris was not greatly impressed by the new instrument (“The organ leaves me stone-cold”). I don’t have Chris’s specialist knowledge or expertise, but as a more ‘general’ listener I have to say that I found the sound generally attractive and richly coloured. Like Chris, I found Johannsen’s recital thoroughly entertaining!

In his new organ Johannsen sought, his notes tell us, an instrument that would be equally suitable for Bach, for the organ music of the German Romantics, and for improvisation. The result is a large instrument with a huge range of resources. It is to improvisation that this recital is devoted. Johannsen gives us twenty-five improvisations on some of the most familiar German hymns and songs of the Advent and Christmas seasons. While Johannsen’s improvisations are respectful of the material, they are also witty, stylistically various and inventively colourful – the range of the new organ is vividly demonstrated, as are Johannsen’s own technique and imagination. There are echoes of the baroque tradition and of the romantics, to show us that the new instrument is capable of meeting the organist’s requirements; but there are also moments which show us his familiarity with the work of, say, Vierne and Messiaen. There is also a jazz-influenced treatment of “Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ”. There are miniature toccatas (as in the improvisation on “O Heiland, reiss die Himmel auf”) and a version of “Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht” which makes it sound anything but hackneyed. The - tasteful! - use of the instruments in-built tubular bells and glockenspiel is alone worth the hearing!

Listening to the whole CD is a little like that occasional experience of wandering, unsuspecting, into a church and finding some unknown organist playing for his/her own pleasure. Though that experience can be magical, the organists concerned are rarely quite as brilliant as Johannsen is. There is, though, something of the same relaxed quality here, of music-making not seemingly designed for public performance, not calculated to impress an audience. But it does!

If you are at all fond of organ recitals and/or contemporary organs, don’t wait until next Christmas to hear this.

Glyn Pursglove

see also Review by Chris Bragg






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