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Nosag Records

Mathias Kjellgren: Organ Greetings
Fran orgeln I Norrtälje kyrka
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Sinfonia from Cantata No. 29 “Wir Danken dir, Gott” (1731) [
4:56]; Air from Orchestral Suite No. 3 in D (1731) [3:48]
Edward GRIEG (1843-1907)
Late Spring (1882) [
Manuel de FALLA (1876-1946)
Ritual Fire Dance (1915) [4:19]
Maurice RAVEL (1875-1937)
Pavane for a Dead Princess (1899) [
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Tannhäuser: Pilgrims’ Chorus (1845) [3:31]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Liebesträume No. 3 (1850) [
Camille SAINT-SÄENS (1835-1921)
Fantasie E-flat major (1857) [
5:40]; The Swan (1886) [3:22]
Zdenek FIBICH (1850-1900)
(1879) [4:21]
Pietro MASCAGNI (1863-1945)
Cavalleria Rusticana: Intermezzo (1890) [
Edward “Duke” ELLINGTON (1899-1974)
Freedom (1968) [
2:15]; Heaven (1968) [3:27]; Come Sunday (1967) [4:17]
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Salut d’amour
(1889) [4:26]
Claude DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
Clair de Lune
(1882-84) [
L.J.A. LEFÉBURE-WELY (1817-1869)
Bolero de Concert [4:26]
Londonderry Air [4:36]
Mathias Kjellgren (organ)
rec. Winter 2005, Norrtälje Kyrka, Norrtälje, Sweden. DDD

Mathias Kjellgren is a thirty-three year-old organist from
Stockholm. He has participated in close to a dozen recordings for the Swedish Nosag label, which as many will know, specializes in liturgical and organ music from Swedish churches. In addition to teaching he is the organist at the St. Maria Magdalene Church in Stockholm. On this disc he plays the organ of the church in the town of Norrtälje, which is located about thirty miles north-east of Stockholm. The organ dates from 1872, built by P.L. Åckerman and was totally rebuilt in 1971, although some stops were retained. Five years ago further stops and an additional digital console were installed. Though the organ does not have a big sound, it has a very bright one that is a pleasant change from those on many organ recordings. As we will see this is the perfect type for an organist of Kjellgren’s abilities.

The present CD offers a selection of short works, many of them standards, chosen to illustrate the Norrtälje organ. Most of them were not written for the organ: there are a number of transcriptions from piano, chorus, orchestra. Kjellgren starts off with best foot forward: two works by Bach, played in a flowing, lively manner. The Grieg Late Spring that follows is lovely and could convince one to only listen to this piece on the organ, so carefully are the registrations chosen.  The Ritual Fire Dance is the most thrillingly played item on the disc. I was surprised how good this piece sounded on the organ and also how well Kjellgren did with his phrasing, although the actual sound occasionally veered into the world of silent movie music. The Ravel and Wagner that follow are disappointing; both are played in a stolid and lockstep fashion that besets much of the playing on this disc. On the other hand, the Saint-Säens Fantasie, actually written for the organ, is played very well, utilizing all the instrument’s power and realizing the composer’s intentions. The Swan is also well-played, but the sound comes out as rather dull.

Fibich’s Poème has always struck me as a little overly refulgent, but beautiful nonetheless. Kjellgren plays it straightforwardly with effective pacing and voicing. The same cannot be said of his version of the Intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana. Here the tempi are all wrong and this is emphasized by the over-reverberant sound, which the engineers seem to have done nothing to counter. These sonic defects are also heard in the three Ellington pieces, although they didn’t stop the organist from demonstrating a quite convincing jazz style. Elgar’s Salut d'Amour is played straight, but could use a bit more coloring. I’m sure many will agree with me that Debussy’s Clair de Lune does not belong on the organ, but it is played here in a fairly idiomatic way. Kjellgren again does well with Spanish rhythms in the Lefébure-Wély Boléro de Concert although the piece is maybe a bit too lively for him. The Londonderry Air is played glacially, making Londonderry sound a lot closer to northern Sweden than I had realized.

The clear sound of the Norrtälje organ lays clear both the weakness and the strength of Mathias Kjellgren’s playing. His weakness is to play some works in a very four-square style just short of what would be an optimum tempo for that particular piece. He has two strengths. The first is his the ability to use control of the range and dynamics of an instrument to make a piece sound as if it was written for the organ. Second he has the ability to keep his voices clean and audible. In this he is not helped by the acoustics of the church, as mentioned above. The engineering for this recording is serviceable, if not impressive. It would be interesting to have a record of Mathias Kjellgren on this instrument playing larger pieces actually written for the organ.

William Kreindler


Nosag Records



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