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Max REGER (1873-1916)
Variations and Fugue on an Original Theme in F sharp minor, Op. 73 (1903) [43:54].
Willem TANKE (b. 1959)
Zwei Wind-Fantasien (2002) [28:21]
Willem Tanke (organ)
rec. Adema Organ, St Bavo-Kathedrale, Haarlem, 7 June 2003 (Reger), Marcussen Organ, Grote of Sint Laurenskerk, Rotterdam, 21 February 2003 (Tanke). DDD
CYBELE RECORDS SACD 060.302 [72:15]



This is a beautifully recorded organ disc. The SACD medium might be custom-made for the King of Instruments. Reger's work ranges from the quietest pianissimo to the largest fortissimo - if it is a tester for your hi-fi you are after, look no further.

His Op. 73 Variations and Fugue works on the largest of canvasses. The introduction itself is nearly nine minutes long and is typically exploratory; Reger really does stretch tonality to its limits here. The theme itself is subdued, slow and pregnant with possibilities just waiting to be explored.

Reger's range of expression is remarkably varied, from the hyper-slow Fourth Variation to the massive sounds of the Ninth. The end is simply huge. It is true the lines of the fugue can emerge as somewhat blurred at times, but Tanke's achievement remains memorable. 

I remain less sure about Tanke's own music. His two Fantasies recorded here apparently "tell" of "the coming into being of the organ" The first concerns itself with the historical breadth of the organ, the second with "the breath audible in the moment when the organ sounds", i.e. the wind when the bellows send the air into the pipes. The first is, in the event, very slow-moving, focusing on shifting timbres and rather scrunchy harmonies. There is a fairly upbeat moment of timbral brightness around ten minutes in. The second Fantasy seems to commune with stasis. 

Musically, the Reger is surely the best piece, though. Organ collectors may well already own the Marin Welzel Naxos recording of this piece. If Reger's keyboard works in general appeal, I take this opportunity to restate my allegiance to Mark Latimer's Warner recording and would suggest giving this a go, too. I do wish we would hear more Reger in the concert hall, though. 

Colin Clarke 


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