The Polish organist-composer Jan Janca is
new to me, but having heard an earlier MDG release of organ music
from neighbouring Lithuania - review
- I belatedly realised there is an extensive catalogue of organ
music beyond the core German and French repertoire we all know
so well. MDG certainly do a good job of unearthing out-of-the-way
repertoire, and a quick listen to this new Janca disc - featuring
two fine German instruments - suggested this might be another
Janca’s Small Suite in 5 Movements
is played by the German organist Andreas Sieling on the Karl Schuke organ of Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin. A fairly recent instrument - it was built in 1962/3 - it has a lovely mellow sound that suits the gentle cadence of this charming suite. Entrée,
the first movement, is built on a stately descending motif, the second, Cantilène,
a songful adagio. And despite the use of oft repeated figures there’s no hint of dry didacticism in either the Danse lente
or the rather Bachian Chorale.
is as fiery as it gets, but that too is characterised by writing of real poise and restraint. Indeed, this is music of surpassing gentleness, sensitively played and warmly recorded.
Restraint is the key word in Missa Orbis factor
as well, the vocal resources supplied by Opus Vocale, a collection of experienced singers from across Germany. It’s a full Sunday Mass, the Fauré-like Kyrie,
light and mobile, supported by Felizitas Rodach on the organ. The Gloria
is rather more animated, building to a most colourful climax, but I imagine some listeners might find the Sanctus/Benedictus
and concluding Agnus dei
somewhat lacking in character. The recessed chorus and the overly warm acoustic tend to reinforce that impression.
We move to Bremen Cathedral, with its restored 99-stop Sauer organ, for the Church year in 16 chorale preludes,
based on well-known liturgical tunes. Of the first five Fling wide the gates
is a sparkling miniature, The night will soon be ending
is played over dark, velvety pedals and The Saviour is born
is characterised by some cheeky dissonances. And just in case you think this is all a little too
laid back, Silent night
emerges with unexpected angularity. Janca also surprises with a sinewy response to Nicolai’s lovely How brightly shines the morning star.
Mahlerians will know Three angels singing
from Des knaben wunderhorn
and the Third Symphony,
but may have some difficulty discerning it in this slow, rather dark little number. That said, Christ is risen
surely has something of Messiaen in its broad, ecstatic writing, whereas Now pray we all Holy Spirit
and O Lord we praise thee
have a more familiar devotional appeal, the Bremen organ sounding rich and resonant throughout. Meanwhile, A ship called community
is tossed around by some choppy pedals, Come here, sing to the Lord
has a slightly smoother ride and Blessed are those who walk there
shines with a bright, steady light.
The final foursome alternate between the all-encompassing warmth of From the bottom of my heart
and the more static harmonies and deep pedals of Now all the forests to rest,
to the simple restraint of Rejoice greatly, o my soul
and the sonorous splendour of Sleepers, wake.
The excitable little Rondo
is a spirited piece, again underpinned by Janca’s trademark of repeated pedal figures.
Any caveats? Well, apart from the overly warm acoustic - especially noticeable in the Mass - Janca’s expressive range isn’t particularly wide, or the level of invention very high. That said, these are good, workmanlike pieces, winningly played; indeed, this disc is worth acquiring for the delightful Suite alone.
The church year in 16 chorale preludes
Macht hoch die Tür (Fling wide the gates) [0:55]
Die Nacht ist vorgedrungen (The night will soon be ending) [1:47]
Der Heiland ist geboren (The Saviour is born) ]1:01]
Stille Nacht (Silent night) [1:29]
Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (How brightly shines the morning star) [1:38]
Es sungen drei Engel (Three angels singing) [4:22]
Christ ist erstanden (Christ has risen) [2:14]
Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist (Now pray we all Holy Spirit) [1:51]
Gott sei gelobet (O Lord, we praise thee) [2:23]
Ein Schiff, das sich Gemeinde nennt (A ship called community) [3:08]
Kommt herbei, singt dem Herrn (Come here, sing to the Lord) [1:57]
Wohl denen, die da wandeln (Blessed are those who walk there) [1:24]
Aus meines Herzens Grunde (From the bottom of my heart) [1:21]
Nun ruhen alle Wälder (Now all the forests to rest) [1:52]
Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele (Rejoice greatly, o my soul) [2:31]
Wachet auf (Sleepers, wake) [2:27]