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If it’s the Czech works you’re after, do not hesitate

  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

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Engelkonzert
Paul HINDEMITH (1895-1963)
Engelkonzert [10:44]
J.S. BACH (1685-1750)
Canonische Veränderungen über das Weihnachtslied ‘Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her’ BWV 769a [14:09]
Sigfrid KARG-ELERT (1877-1933)
Saluto angelico op 106 Nr 5 [4:06]
Fritz GOLLER (1914-1986)
Choralpartita ‘Unüberwindlich starker held, St Michael’ [6:01]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Angelus [7:45]
Engelbert HUMPERDINCK (1854-1921)
Engelszene aus der Märchenoper ‘Hänsel und Gretel’ [10:31]
Max REGER (1873-1916)
Ave Maria op 63 Nr 7 [4:16]
Théodore DUBOIS (1837-1924)
In Paradisum [4:09]
Jacques Georges Paul CHARPENTIER (b. 1933)
L’Ange à la Trompette [8:27]
Josef Still (organ)
rec. Trier Dom, 6-8 September 2005 DDD
ORGANUM CLASSICS OGM 267014 [70:59]
 


This is another attractive programme from the German label Organum featuring the 1974 Klais organ in Trier Dom. The organ is perhaps more famous for its remarkable case than its tonal qualities. It dates from the same period as the 1977 instrument at Ingolstadt and features many of the same tonal characteristics; a robust and hard sound, turbo-charged mixtures and reeds, and colourful flutes. The acoustic doesn’t render the result quite as awesome as in Ingolstadt but the then ‘modernist’ approach remains strangely compelling, this was the iconic organ-type of the time, even if so much contemporary organ building has moved forward so little from it.
 
What do you play on such an instrument? Nicholas Kynaston famously answered this question in Ingolstadt with perhaps the most compelling Liszt recordings ever made. Here though, Trier Cathedral Organist Josef Still (b. 1959) combines virtuosity with imagination to create a programme of engaging ‘Angel’ music, a clever idea! Only the Bach completely fails to ignite; Still never manages to get beyond the accenting of all the smallest note values. On the other hand the beautiful arrangement, (by Ulrich Krapp) of the Engelkonzert from Hindemith’s Mathis der Maler has just the right character to show off the rather clinical organ perfectly. I loved it.
 
Elsewhere the delicious miniature from Karg-Elert shows him at his most impressionistic – you’d swear this was by a Frenchman. The dramatic, bi-tonal, atonal, but cunningly crafted partita by Fritts Goller is a very attractive piece, which deserves to be better known. Again, its stark textures suit the organ well. And if the Angel Scene from Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel doesn’t quite seduce the way the St Mary’s Edinburgh Willis does in Timothy Byram-Wigfield’s recording of the same transcription (Priory PRCD 700) it remains exciting. The unusual and little-played L’Ange à la Trompette by Jacques Charpentier provides the stunning conclusion.
 
Full marks then to Josef Still for his involving and committed playing of often unusual repertoire. This is, as a result, a very recommendable release.
 
A small minus mark against Organum though: the English translation of the booklet text is poor. One comment in particular must be shared. “Theodore Dubois ….. is known to organ lovers especially through his motorized toccata.” Brrrrrrrooooooooooom.
 
Chris Bragg
 

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