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Andrew Dewar (organ)
Triumph and Tribulation - A Portrait of German Romanticism
Gustav MERKEL (1827-1885)
Variations for the Organ on a Theme of Beethoven (Sonata in E-Flat Op.109) Op.45 (1868) [15:26]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Variations on “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen” (1859-1863) [20:00]
Carl REINECKE (1824-1910)
Sonata for Organ Op.284 (1909) [16:48]
Max REGER (1873-1916)
Three Pieces from Op.65 #9,7,8 (1901): (Kanzone Es-Dur [5:34]; Präludium d-Moll [6:16]; Fuge D-Dur [4:28])
Andrew Dewar (organ)
rec. Walcker Organ, Sankt Maria Kirche, Schramberg, Germany (Merkel; Liszt); Späth Bros. Organ in the Heilige Geist Kirche, Schramberg (Reinecke; Reger). 26 April 2005, Sankt Maria Kirche, 25 April 2005, Heilige Geist Kirche.
EDITION HERA HERA 02118 [69:62]

 



Andrew Dewar is a young organist who was an organ scholar at Wells Cathedral and then went to the Hochschüle fur Musik in
Stuttgart. At present he is the organist of two churches in that city and continues his studies there. At one time his selection of music for this disc might have been described as organ works by three well-known and one obscure composer. But in recent years Gustav Merkel has acquired some fame, most especially due to the series on Priory of his complete organ sonatas as played by Adrian Partington - of which more later. At the same time Romantic well describes all the pieces on this CD although the spirit of Bach hovers over all of them in varying degrees.

Merkel spent most of his life in Dresden, ending up as the court composer to the Wettin royal family of the city. He was fairly conservative, especially harmonically, but his music was valued by organists. His Variations on a Theme of Beethoven uses a theme from the Piano Sonata #30 (E-Major). The variations are amiable and well written and Andrew Dewar plays them so as to point up the positive characteristics, but does not turn in as exciting a performance as does Partington on Vol.1 of the complete sonatas. However, Dewar really understands the Walcker organ and gets the most out of it, especially given that the organ sound is somewhat dampened by the acoustic of the church. He also takes a slightly more light-hearted approach than Partington, which is refreshing.

Liszt’s Variations on “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen” are very well known. They have been recorded on both organ and piano many times through the years. The piece was written for piano after the death of Liszt’s son and reworked and expanded for the organ after the death of Liszt’s daughter Blandine. The material is the basso continuo from the first movement of the Bach cantata of the same name and the Crucifixus of the Mass in B-Minor. The work is in four sections-in the first Dewar handles Liszt’s s treatment of the Bach bass line in a rather original manner and seems not totally in sympathy with the piece. This impression is not dispelled by his playing in the second section until Liszt’s long sequential passage from top to bottom-Dewar makes this seem much more purposeful and interesting than many organists do. His build-up to the finale doesn’t make as much of the chorale theme as I would like, but is pretty solid.  

Reinecke is not usually associated with the organ, in spite of his tremendous output and this sonata is indeed his only work for the instrument and was written a year before the composer’s death. It is in one movement and includes a chorale on ‘Wie schön leucht uns der Morgenstern”. This is its first digital recording. Like most of Reinecke’s works it consists of a smooth flow of small melodic fragments. The opening pays homage to Bach in style, but from there on it is the typical amiable Reinceke, especially in the slow middle section. This piece and the Reger works which follow were recorded at a different church in Schramberg, Heilige Geist, and the Späth organ there is better suited to this music than the Walcker to the Merkel and Liszt works. The piece also seems better suited to Dewar as he has the style down completely and his enthusiasm communicates itself to the listener.

Amiable is not a word one readily applies to Reger, but his Op.65 contains some of his less weighty works for the organ. Again Dewar uses the Späth organ well and his performance of the Kanzone is probably the best on the disc. He plays the Präludium at a quicker pace than is usual, but this does not really detract from his performance. I find the Fugue to be the least exciting of these pieces and Dewar seems to feel the same way-his performance is not as committed as those of the Präludium and Kanzone.

Schramberg is a town in the Black Forest, not too far from Stuttgart, that contains a number of churches of interest, musical and otherwise. The Walcker organ dates from 1844, with alterations in 1900 and 1948 and then restoration to its original condition in 1995. It is a two-manual organ with a third manual for a Physharmonica, a type of second harmonium-stop especially for modulation. Walcker’s creation for Schramburg was one of the earlier Romantic-style organs in Germany. Although the organ is a fine one it seems not quite up to the requirements of 19th century music, especially in the Liszt. The church acoustic creates weird reverberations and one or two drop-offs of sound.

The Späth Bros’ organ in the Heilige Geist Kirche is better suited to this repertoire. It is a 1925 creation of the firm (from Ennetach-Mengen) and at first would seem to be too much a work of the Orgel-Bewegung to be totally appropriate to the pieces on the second half of this disc. Owing however to a large variety of foundation stops it sounds pretty much like a Romantic organ and an excellent one. The smooth flow essential to Reinecke’s music is perfectly evoked by the reeds in the second manual. The more modern music of Reger also comes through, especially as Reger wrote these pieces to evoke famous keyboard styles of the past. The acoustic in the church is both more sympathetic to this repertoire and to the requirements of recording.

As indicated above, the recording quality of this disc, especially on the first half, has too much reverberation alternating with dead sound. The engineers do their best under the circumstances, but while these churches contain wonderful instruments, they do not always make for a wonderful recording venue. However, this is not to take away from the abilities of Andrew Dewar who shows himself an organist of promise and a gifted program creator.

William Kreindler

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