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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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