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Arp-Schnitger-Orge Norden

Magnificat II toni [7'10]
William BYRD (1542/43-1623)

Passamezzo Pavana [6'57]
Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (c1637-1707)

Canzona in C BuxWV 166 [5'11]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)

An Wasserflussen Babylon BWV 653b [5'03]
Toccata in F 540/1 [9'01]
Arnolt SCHLICK (before 1460-after 1520/1)

Ascendo ad patrem meum, 2nd verse [2'17]
Francisco CORREA DE ARAUXO (1584-1654)

Tiento LIII de medio registro de dos tiples de sugundo tono [5'25]
Samuel SCHEIDT (1587-1654)

Echo ad manuale duplex forte e lene SSWV 128 [8'14]

Gelobet seist du, Jesu Christ BuxWV 188 [8'30]
Georg BOHM (1661-1733)

Ach wie nichtig, ach wie fluchtig [5'59]

Toccata in d BuxWV 155 [7'18]
Agnes Luchterhandt (1-6), Thiemo Janssen (6-11) (organ)
rec. Ludgerikirche, Norden, Germany, 25-27 April 2005. DDD

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 itís 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.

Agnes Luchterhandt 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, Vogelís 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.

Chris Bragg



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