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Petr EBEN (b. 1929)
Moto Ostinato from Sonntagsmusik [4:49]
The composer introduces Symphonia Gregoriana [4:19]
Symphonia Gregoriana for organ and orchestra (1953) [56:32]
Andreas Meisner (organ) (Moto); Paul Wißkirchen (organ); Händel-Festspielorchester Halle/Volker Hempfling
rec. 2 August 1990, Altenberg Dom. DDD
premiere recording of Symphonia Gregoriana
MOTETTE CD40151 [65:40]
Experience Classicsonline

The major work here is the Czech composer Eben's Symphonia Gregoriana. It was written in 1953 and premiered in Prague in 1954.

The Symphony is in four sections but they appear here as an inconvenient single track which at least encourages continuous listening rather than picking and choosing. The first movement includes a gently undulating introduction by the solo which with ineluctable subtlety rises to a life-enhancing climax. Time and again, as well as revelling in the ecclesiastical atmosphere most naturally alluded to by the organ, Eben connects with his exemplars especially the elegiac magnificence of Josef Suk. To this he adds small infusions of Franz Schmidt, Hindemith and even Dvořák. The writing is inventive and carries an urgent and magnificent charge. Serenity, starry strings and the harp are frequent visitors to this little known score. At 31:31 in the Allegro Risoluto section we are in the midst of a vigorous and uproarious chase sequence. In the starry pensive Adagio the slow motion of the aurora borealis mixes with the suggestion of orthodox chant in a monumentally swirling ascent. And those drums at 39:00 surely owe inspiration to Suk's Asrael. At 39:42 there is a songful meditation by solo violin. The finale is full of brio - a rampant Allegro with a serious accent and gritty determination.

This music enjoys a clear and unclouded recording which celebrates the grander moments as well as the many quietly serene confidences and contemplations.

The notes by the composer are in German, English and French. They seem to be a transcription and translation of the commentary so clearly orated by the composer in track 2.

The symphony is heard in a live concert performance with audience present. They are a couth lot and know how to behave. The only tremor come in the odd cough or discreet throat-clearing.

This is a work that you need to encounter if you enjoy the Saint-Saens Organ Symphony, the Poulenc or the Guilmant symphonies (also first recorded on Motette).

Rob Barnett


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