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.