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Symphonic Organ
Naji HAKIM (b. 1955)
Ouverture Libanaise (2001) [8:52]
Robert Maximilian HELMSCHROTT (b. 1938)
Furioso Infernal – Symphonische Fantasie (1991) [16:22]
Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992)
L’Ascension – Quatre Méditations Symphoniques (1934) (I. Majesté du Christ demandant sa gloire à son Père [5:32];  II. Alléluias sereins d’une âme qui désire le ciel  [5:46];  III. Transports de joie d’une âme devant la gloire du Christ [4:58];  IV. Prière du Christ montant vers son Père [5:27])
Robert Maximilian HELMSCHROTT
Dans la lumière (1993) [14:48]
Pange lingua (1996) (I. Pange lingua [0:48]; II. Nobis datus [1:01]; III. In supreme nocte caenae [2:53]; IV. Verbum caro [1:30]; V. Tantum ergo [1:54]; VI. Genitori genitoque [3:25])
Franz Hauk (organ)
rec. Liebfrauenmünster, Ingolstadt, November 1997 and September/October 2001. DDD
GUILD GMCD7309 [73:49] 

It’s always a little exciting to get a recording of the Ingolstadt organ. Stephen Bicknell once cited the enormous 1977 Klais as one of the pinnacles of ‘modernist’ organ building. Although spectacularly unsuitable for almost the entire organ repertoire, some astounding recordings have come from there; Nicholas Kynaston’s Liszt recording, also on Guild, defies all rational organ/repertoire analysis in producing the most compelling Ad Nos ever released; I still can’t get enough of it. Perhaps the one repertoire area where colossal foundations, turbo-charged mixtures, downright dangerous chamades and 10 seconds of acoustic form a cogent and appropriate combination is the area explored on the present CD made by the organist of the church, Franz Hauk.

The recording kicks off with another of the frivolous and commercial concert ditties for which Naji Hakim seems to have become chiefly known in recent years. How far away the wonderful Hommage à Igor Stravinsky from 20 years ago seems now. That said, Ouverture Libanaise, combining folksongs with rhythmic and melodic elements typical of Lebanese folk music is a very good piece of its type and audiences will love it. I’ve been whistling it for days. It makes for a nice tribute by the organist of La Trinité to his homeland and I look forward to hearing Hakim play it himself. One can’t help feel though that, rather like his teacher Langlais, Hakim’s creativity as a composer has suffered due to the sheer scale of his output.

The music of Robert Helmschrott, a former student of Dallapiccola and Professor at the Hochschule in Munich is new to me. The intentionally hellish Furioso Infernal, referring implicitly to Dante’s Inferno, and Psalm 130 (“Out of the Depths have I cried unto thee, O Lord”) is seriously tough going, especially the final section; 10 minutes of virtually unbroken tutti discords with driving rhythms. The sheer audacity of the work is almost offensive, but combined with the sheer audacity of the angry Klais the effect is gruesomely compelling. Hauk plays this technically transcendental music quite brilliantly. The more fragmentary Dans la lumière is an allegorical fantasy depicting light as a metaphor for heaven.

Messiaen’s L’Ascension is by far the best known repertoire on the disc and receives a very well projected reading. Messiaen’s ideal organ was, in truth, something of a figment of his imagination, and the aesthetic match with the present instrument is hardly far-fetched. The serenity of Alléluias sereins is sensitively captured although the Prière du Christ is perhaps a little too restless. Transports de joie is as terrifying as it gets.

Franz Hauk plays with commitment and no little skill here; this is clearly his repertoire. It is also the ideal repertoire to match the aesthetic of Klais’s monster, an, in a sense deeply admirable, period piece, but from which Klais have regrettably barely moved on.

The booklet is adequate, the recording is perhaps a little close.

Well conceived, sometimes thrilling and worth buying.

Chris Bragg



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