disc has been issued to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the
organ built in 1997 by Johannes Klais of Bonn at the Abbey Church
of Saint Peter, Bath; a former Benedictine Monastery. It contains
three appealing works for organ and orchestra. Each composer has
been greatly inspired by music of the renaissance, baroque and
classical periods and often employed older forms of music in their
scores. Appropriately the soloist on the Klais organ at Bath Abbey
is their organist and choirmaster. The recording has been produced
in association with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales and BBC
The opening work is Respighi’s Suite for strings and organ.
This neo-baroque work in four movements, modelled on the style
of the Concerto grosso, is described by Regent
as, “Respighi’s opulent and luxurious homage to the eighteenth
century and the Baroque suite.”
this performance I was impressed by the energetic playing and
the remarkable forward momentum in the Preludio - Moderato;
a movement so reminiscent of J.S. Bach. In the Aria
- Lent one feels that the composer may be describing
a passionate love affair. The soaring lyricism of the string
melody is especially appealing and one notices how the texture
thickens at 2:31 with a full-bodied organ part. I especially
enjoyed the light and introspective Pastorale - Andante
molto sostenuto seeming to hint at a sinister undercurrent.
In the magnificent closing movement Cantico - Grave
one is struck by the restless energy of the robust and angry
organ and the dark and misty low strings.
excellent performance is now my preferred version of Respighi’s
Suite in G major. Of the alternatives I remain fond of
the vigorous and colourful 1990 recording from Goldsmith’s College,
London by organist Leslie Pearson with the Philharmonia Orchestra
under Geoffrey Simon on Cala Records CACD1007 (c/w The Ballad
of the Gnomes; Adagio for Cello and Orchestra and
Three Botticelli Pictures).
Poulenc’s Organ Concerto was a commission from Winnaretta
Singer, the Princesse de Polignac, the music patron and heiress
to the Singer sewing machine fortune. The score provides the
date of composition as April-August 1938 although a letter from
Poulenc states that he was working on the score much earlier
in May 1936 (Francis Poulenc ‘Echo and Source’ Selected Correspondence
1915-1963. Translated and edited by Sidney Buckland. Publisher:
Victor Gollancz Ltd. London 1991. ISBN 0-575-05093-4. Pg. 354).
acknowledged as one of his finest works it borrows extensively
from diverse music of earlier periods, notably J.S. Bach and
Mozart. The Organ Concerto was first performed in June
1939 at the Salle Gaveau by Maurice Duruflé and the Paris Symphony
Orchestra under Roger Désormière.
Organ Concerto is cast in a continuous single movement
with seven discernable sections. There is an extrovert and rather
unsettling Andante of a strong liturgical character,
followed by a hectic and energetic Allegro giocoso that
reminded me at times of a Keystone Cops chase. The substantial
Andante moderato is mainly light and contemplative which
serves as a contrast to the Tempo allegro, molto agitato
section where stress and anxiety prevail. The good humoured
section marked Très calme - Lent has a gentle
and relaxing temperament followed by the Tempo de l’allegro
initial section that contains all the joy and fun of the
fair. In the final section marked Tempo introduction - Largo
the cheerfulness is dispensed with as the assertive and
soberly disconcerting mood of the opening movement returns.
still greatly admire the version of the Poulenc Organ Concerto
from organist Peter Hurford and the Philharmonia Orchestra
under Charles Dutoit. This exciting and robust version was recorded
in 1992 at St. Albans Cathedral on Decca 436 546-2 (c/w Piano
Concerto and Concerto for Two Pianos).
the least known of the three featured composers, Rheinberger,
was an influential professor of organ and composition at the
Munich Conservatory for almost thirty-five years where he remained
until his death. A close friend of Hans von Bülow and Johannes
Brahms, Rheinberger did not follow the progressive ‘New German
School’ of Liszt and Wagner preferring older music with baroque
and classical traditions and the early romantic movement.
this romantic three movement Organ Concerto one is immediately
struck by the robust integrity of the music. The opening Maestoso
is highly melodious with a conspicuous masculine strength. By
contrast the passionate and romantic central Andante
has an ethereal sense of floating and meandering. The concluding
movement Con moto is industrious, inventive and highly
melodic. At 3:39 a beautiful but rather fleeting theme is heard
before being unfairly snatched away.
was my first hearing of Rheinberger’s Organ Concerto No.
1. I note that there are several alternative versions in
the catalogue. Probably the best known is that from organist
Paul Skevington and the Amadeus Orchestra under Timothy Rowe
from McLean, Virginia in 1999 on Naxos 8.557787 (c/w Organ
Concerto No. 2 in G minor, Op. 177).
Throughout these three scores Peter King provides assured and
inspiring performances ably assisted by the splendidly prepared
BBC National Orchestra of Wales. The Klais organ has an impressive
tone and remarkable wealth of colour, and these magnificent
and challenging scores put the instrument through its paces
to achieve great success. ‘Demonstration standard’ seems to
be rarely used term these days but this Regent release is recorded
to that elevated quality. The interesting booklet notes are
fine and will satisfy most needs.
those looking for something different to the mainstream this collection
of Respighi, Poulenc and Rheinberger organ concertos, superbly
recorded and performed, makes a fitting choice.