This marvellous disc is a fine tribute to a neglected area of
Brahms’ work, and it also draws great praise for the playing of
Always known for his great musical architecture, Brahms brings a similar
grasp of structure to his organ music. Importantly, however,
many of Brahms’ key organ works date from emotional climaxes
in his life so these are not mere academic studies in the form.
The chorale prelude “O Traurigkeit, O Herzeleid” was probably written as
a tribute to Schumann after his death in 1858. Horsch plays
it as a touching homage, but she also includes whispers of hope
and shafts of light which temper the overall mood. Forty years
later Brahms composed his Eleven Chorale Preludes as a burial
tribute to Clara Schumann. This remarkable sequence of works
showcases the influence of Bach, whose work Brahms adored.
Each piece is a profound and majestic meditation on one aspect
of death. They are densely contrapuntal in nature, but there
are light touches in the midst of the heavy mood, such as Brahms’
take on Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen.
other works on this disc showcase Brahms’s skill at counterpoint.
The G minor prelude and fugue and the fugue in A flat minor
are overtly Bachian and are rather astonishing in the way each
layer of the music folds into the overall structure. The concluding
A minor prelude and fugue is perhaps less intense, but it shows
equal skill and it is astute programming to end on a (relatively)
this recital Anne Horsch is fully aware of the emotional and
structural scale of these works.
This marvellous young virtuoso scales the technical heights
seemingly effortlessly, and she tempers her playing most effectively
for the lighter moments. She encompasses the full range of
emotions in the Eleven Preludes and Fugues and she is helped
by an instrument and acoustic which fit the late Romantic mood
of these works very well. There is no austerity or sparseness
from this organ: instead we get wave upon wave of lush Romantic
sound which can at times feel almost cloying. In fact the sound
on this disc is perhaps its greatest asset. The rich reverberant
sound really engulfs the listener in a way I’ve seldom experienced,
and you don’t need full SACD technology to appreciate. The
basic stereo is very precisely placed so that it’s as though
we were listening from the very middle of the church. It’s
very effective and, truth be told, it suits the rich, predominantly
gloomy mood of these works very well indeed.
So buy this disc for virtuosic playing of marvellous music captured brilliantly
in an entirely appropriate acoustic. Well done to all involved.