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Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Complete Organ Works

Chorale Prelude and Fugue on ďO Traurigkeit, O HerzeleidĒ, WoO 7 [10:12]
Prelude and Fugue in G minor, WoO 10 [7:32]
Fugue in A flat minor, WoO 8 [8:19]
Eleven Chorale Preludes, op. posth. 122 [35:54]
Prelude and Fugue in A minor, WoO 9 [5:56]
Anne Horsch (organ)
Maerz-Prgel (1887), St. Rupertís Catholic Parish Church, Munich
rec. July 2007 (October 2005 for op. 122)
CPO 777384-2 [68:22] 


Experience Classicsonline

This marvellous disc is a fine tribute to a neglected area of Brahmsí work, and it also draws great praise for the playing of Anne Horsch. 

Always known for his great musical architecture, Brahms brings a similar grasp of structure to his organ music.† Importantly, however, many of Brahmsí key organ works date from emotional climaxes in his life so these are not mere academic studies in the form.† The chorale prelude ďO Traurigkeit, O HerzeleidĒ 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 Brahmsí take on Es ist ein Rosí entsprungen. 

The other works on this disc showcase Brahmsís 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) lighter note. 

Throughout 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 Iíve seldom experienced, and you donít need full SACD technology to appreciate.† The basic stereo is very precisely placed so that itís as though we were listening from the very middle of the church.† Itís 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.

Simon Thompson


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