The first thing to say about this release
from Swedish label Musica Rediviva is
how well it is conceived and presented.
The idea was to make an ad hoc organ
tour of small historic organs in Sweden,
with an organist, and to record some
appropriate literature on each instrument.
This has been marvellously achieved;
each instrument is a gem and the accompanying
43 page booklet contains not only full
details of the instruments and registrations
but also a full social and cultural
history of the buildings and areas where
they are to be found. It also features
some great photography. This has clearly
been a labour of love for its creators,
but the result has vindicated their
efforts. It is a model release.
The instruments were
built between 1604 and 1783. Actually,
the pipework of the Morlanda organ dates
mostly from 1715, so the earliest sounds
are really those of the 1667 Joachim
Richborn organ in Skokloster. What a
charming sound this, tuned, just as
the instruments in Morlanda and Tjallmo,
in 1/4 comma meantone, and ideally shown
off in the Variations on 'Wehe, Windgen,
Wehe' from the Tabulatura Nova of Scheidt.
The Morlanda organ I actually played
briefly during its restoration in the
workshops of the Gothenburg Organ Art
Centre in 2000. Originally built in
Denmark in 1604, the majority of the
pipes dates from a rebuild and re-housing
in 1715 by Elias Wittig of Gothenburg.
This intimate instrument, hand pumped,
is well demonstrated in the Scheidt
Fantasia and the Galliarda of Scheidemann.
The most famous instrument on the disc
is Cahmann's 1728 organ for the church
at Leufsta Bruk. This is a fascinating
organ, the largest preserved instrument
of Johan Niclas Cahmann, who, together
with his father, can probably be considered
the most important organ builder in
Sweden in the 100 years between 1650
and 1750. This organ was the subject
of a number of interesting essays in
the book, 'The Organ as a Mirror of
its Time', (ed, Snyder, OUP 2002) to
which I refer the interested reader.
Here it sounds gorgeous, the bold principals
and mesmeric 4' flute especially memorable.
At 2/28 this is the largest instrument
on the CD. The instrument received a
rather early, 1964, restoration by Marcussen,
when it was tuned in equal temperament.
Since this recording was made a further
restoration has taken place. I can't
wait to hear the result!
The remainder of the
instruments date from the second half
of the 18th century. Most memorable
are the two 4' flutes used in the wonderful
Mozart F major Andante from Jonsered.
The other instruments, the tiny Yttergran
organ, and the organ at Borstil, which
consists of little more than a wonderfully
steely tierce-dominated plenum, are
demonstrated with well chosen nuggets
If I were to place
a small question-mark against this release,
then it would concern the playing as
it relates to the overall concept. Naoko
Imai, a former student of Zsigmond Szathmary,
and organ teacher at the Tokyo National
University of Fine Arts, plays well
in general, with admirable sensitivity
for each challenging instrument she
performs on. I find her 18th century
repertoire better than her 17th century
which sometimes tends toward over-accentuation,
especially in weak parts of the bar.
However my over-riding concern is in
connection with the fact that the disc
lasts only 57 minutes. This is simply
not long enough to do justice to such
an abundance of organic riches. I find
it a shame that as a result Ms Imai
takes, for example a lengthy Scheidt
fantasia and plays it on six different
registrations in Morlanda. The booklet
gives us extensive details of the Leufsta
Bruk organ, including the mixture compositions,
but then we don't hear any of the mixtures!
This is then warmly
recommended for fabulous presentation,
good playing, and wonderful organs and
music. Buy it and be inspired to find
out more about these remarkable survivals.