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Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Der Ring – An Organ Transcription - arr. Hansjörg Albrecht
Hansjörg Albrecht (organs)
rec. St. Nikolai zu Kiel, April-May 2006
OEHMS CLASSICS OC 612 Hybrid SACD [63:59]

What we have here is a disc of popular parts of The Ring played on the organ or, to be more precise, two organs by one organist. Starting at the beginning and finishing at the end, we are fast-forwarded via the entry of the gods into Valhalla, the ride of the Valkyries, forest murmurs and Siegfried’s funeral march. Apart from in the two Rheingold excerpts, which are played attaca, there is no attempt to avoid bleeding of chunks. The subtitle "symphonic suite for organ" which appears as a heading in the booklet can be safely ignored.

Performer Hans Albrecht is accredited with the transcription on the title pages of the booklet but the waters are muddied by his answers to the question – did you use previous organ transcriptions? These have been made by Karg-Elert, Thalben-Ball and Langmann, material which apparently "supplied the basis for this recording". So it is unclear who transcribed what although it is probably a patchwork by several hands. Not that it sounds anything other than Wagnerian – the music is little bowdlerised, and very well played and recorded. I have only heard the disc in standard CD format but the engineering by Martin Fischer is undoubtedly impressive.

The concept of playing music from The Ring on the organ will be very much a matter of taste. Despite being happy to give transcriptions a hearing and often being pleasantly surprised by the results, I didn’t really warm to this disc and found the results variable. Most impressive are the excerpts from Götterdämmerung with the funeral march coming across well in this format and the very end seeming powerfully redemptive. At the other end of the scale, the Valkyries seem to be riding in lorries and the forest might be a small copse in a big city park. Nor does the organ seem to have the facility for Thor’s hammer. Organs do, of course, have voices but perhaps I just missed the human voice too much and I also found myself longing to hear strings.

A few words about the instruments used. The large organ in St. Nikolai, Kiel was built in 1965 by Detlef Kleuker and has been recently renovated. The choir organ was built by Cavaillé-Coll and Mutin, and originally installed in Tourcoing in northern France in 1921. It was renovated and moved to Kiel in 2003-4. They are wonderful sounding instruments and the large organ certainly has the power to convey Wagner’s bigger moments.

Gripes about the documentation have been alluded to above but, in other respects, this is satisfactory. Those who want detailed information about the organs will be content and there are also colour pictures.

If the idea behind the disc appeals, this will probably give pleasure but if you share my view that this music gives no room for compromise, get your favourite full set out, set aside four evenings and experience something far greater.

Patrick C Waller


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