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MSR Classics

Felix Hell Plays The Rieger-Kloss Organ
Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (c.1637-1707)
Prelude, Fugue and Ciaconne in C Major BuxWV 137 [6:01]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Prelude and Fugue in G major BWV 541 [7:24]; Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme [4:44]; Air on the G-String [3:12]
Marcel DUPR… (1886-1971)
Variations sur un NoŽl [12:08]
Eugene GIGOUT (1844-1925)
Toccata in B minor [2:58]
Leon BOELLMANN (1862-1897)
Suite Gothique op 25 [15:20]
Charles-Marie WIDOR (1845-1937)
Symphony No 5 [19:26]: i) Allegro; ii) Allegro Cantabile
Max REGER (1873-1916)
Variations and Fugue on America [7:40]
Felix Hell (organ)
rec: Independent Presbyterian Church, Savannah, Georgia, USA. No date given. DDD
MSR CLASSICS MS 1162 [79:03]

The Czech organ company Rieger-Kloss was the organ builder of the Eastern bloc, in the time between the Second World War and the fall of the iron curtain. They employed, possibly still do in fact, more people than any other organ factory in the world, churning out cheap, dreadful organs by the thousand. Their products can be found from Belarus to Bulgaria, and beyond. Since the fall of the communist states,† Rieger-Kloss have re-invented themselves as builders of American factory organs, even gaining considerable business in the US itself.
The organ featured here is a new three manual instrument with Electric action, 47 ranks of pipes and 16 electronic stops. While the sheer crudeness of the old Rieger-Kloss has gone, the new Rieger-Kloss hardly embodies high artistic values. Apart from its use of synthetic voices, abhorrent enough, the pedal is made up almost exclusively of extended units and borrowings. The organ has five 32' stops, (presumably most or all fake), in a church with an acoustic of two seconds at most. The ubiquitous Chimes, Zimbelstern, Harp and Celesta are all present.† In general the sound is forgettable at anything up to mf, and ugly thereafter.
Felix Hell is a young German organist who moved to the USA to study at the Juilliard School, aged just 14. Later he undertook bachelor study at the Curtis Institute. (Curtis is a final outpost of virtuosity at all costs training - the costs include any mechanical action teaching instruments, or anything resembling, aesthetically aware pedagogy, although a newly appointed professor, Alan Morrison, may change that.) Now at the grand old age of twenty, Hell has more than 450 concerts to his credit, the majority of which in the USA. His fame until now has mostly been built on his 'child-prodigy' status. That said, his undoubted talent and old-school American training have left him with a virtuosic technique capable of tackling all the major romantic and 20th century repertoire. I was pleasantly surprised to note that Hell seldom resorts to playing at breakneck speeds to charm his listener. However, like the Rieger-Kloss company, Hell has to re-invent himself to be taken seriously as a 'grown-up' musician. The baroque music here is strictly 'by numbers', the remainder of the programme consists largely of powder-puff repertoire, (Gigout, Boellmann, Air on the G String). The frightening Duprť is very well controlled but lacks the sense of timing and atmosphere of a Gillian Weir for instance. If I were Mr Hell, I would take a sabbatical from making recordings and come back in five years with some significant repertoire on a significant instrument, preferably closer to his homeland.
This is of minimal interest.

Chris Bragg


MSR Classics


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