It must be difficult
to make a disc on such a famous and
intensively recorded organ as that at
Norden, and say anything new, even despite
the organ's superlative quality. But
this is a really excellent CD by the
husband and wife team now responsible
for Arp Schnitger's masterpiece and
it’s one which I can very highly recommend.
Norden is Schnitger's
second largest surviving instrument
after the Jacobikirche in Hamburg. It
gained instant fame after Jurgen Ahrend
restored it in 1985 and has been featured
in countless recordings since. Part
of its fame is due to its unique position
in the church on the south side of the
chancel, its one pedal tower to the
right of the player, its distantly enchanting
Oberpositiv also unique. The nucleus
of the surviving instrument is by Schnitger
dating from 1692 and incorporating stops
from an earlier instrument by Edo Evers.
Now, all the reeds and the majority
of the compound stops are by Ahrend
and his characteristic perfection is
very evident. That Ahrend has left his
stamp on all the organs he has restored
must be acknowledged; I don't believe
Schnitger's reeds ever spoke as promptly
and perfectly as Ahrend's. But in a
sense it doesn't matter a jot, Jurgen
Ahrend is the most talented organ builder
of his generation, and every bit as
great an artist as was Arp Schnitger.
Whatever, the famed Norden instrument
here justifies every crumb of its reputation.
It sounds, as ever, breathtakingly beautiful.
and Thiemo Janssen are both former students
of Harald Vogel and Wolfgang Zerer.
Here they present an attractive and
imaginative programme, and present it
with love and great musicality. Neither
player is afraid to bend the pulse to
an expressive end, and both play with
a very highly sophisticated vocabulary
of articulation. For me the highlight
is Janssen's performance of Scheidt's
Echo ad manuale duplex, initially contrasting
the plena of Hauptwerk and Oberpositiv
and ending with the Ruckpostiv Principal
8' against the 8' flutes of Hauptwerk
and Oberpositiv, a feast for the ear!
Elsewhere Janssen proves his versatility
with a gorgeously flexible chunk of
Correa. I find the Buxtehude Toccata
too bitty for me, too many registration
changes, fugues with 8' pedal, very
much in the Vogel mold, but as I have
commented many times, Vogel’s approach
is for me too personal to be so constantly
imitated. Luchterhandt also plays with
great control and expressiveness. Her
massive approach to the Weckmann is
spot-on and contrasts well with her
delicate and poised Buxtehude Canzona.
I question the concept of playing BWV
540 in Norden, the temperament (modified
meantone) may "add spice to the work"
to quote the performer, but for me it
is too much, despite the beautifully
paced performance. In addition an 8'
chorus without the 16 pedal reed doesn't
seem ideal for Bach's more monumental
sound-world. Schlick's ten voice verse,
'Ascendo ad patrem meum' is divided
between the players.
This is fabulous music
played on one of Europe's greatest organs
with panache and flair. Presentation
is first rate. Congratulations to MDG
on a gorgeous release.