Johannes Geffert plays Leyding, Bach, De Gruijtters, Kuhnau
and Bruhns Georg Dietrich LEYDING (1664-1710) Preludium in E flat [4:08] Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) Partita O Gott, du frommer Gott (BWV 767) [17:33] Johan DE GRUIJTTERS (1709-1772)
(ed) Ceciliana (132) [5:46] Het Carillion Van Duijnkerke (119) [1:24] Sonata (40, 42, 44 & 119) [12:34] Marche (95) [0:58] Tantum ergo (152) [1:49] Maria schoon in sexti toni (153) [1:24] Allegro (194) [2:21] La bergeri (55) [3:54] Johann KUHNAU(1660-1722) Suonata I 'Der Streit zwischen David und Goliath' [12:11]
Johan DE GRUIJTTERS (ed) Andante in G [5:03] Nicolaus BRUHNS (1665-1697) Praeludium in e minor [9:26]
Johannes Geffert (organ)
rec. St Pauluskerk, Antwerp, Belgium, no date given. DDD
This disc provides a portrait of an organ with some remarkable
characteristics. Firstly, it is the only organ in Belgium which
dates from the 17th century and has, it is believed, retained
its original sound, despite some later additions and changes.
It was built around 1650 by Nicolaes van Haeghen. Secondly,
although the case of the organ reflects the style of organ building
in North Germany and the Netherlands, its sound is closer to
the classical French organ tradition. In the liner-notes it
is called a "synthesis-instrument". One would expect
that the French side of this organ would have been more strongly
represented in the programme, but instead the main items are
by German composers.
The disc begins with a piece by a little-known organ master
from North Germany, Georg Dietrich Leyding, who received lessons
from Buxtehude and Reinken. Only five organ works from his pen
have survived. One of them is the Preludium in E flat, which
shows the influence of the Italian concerto. This is realised
in the performance by alternating the manuals.
Johann Sebastian Bach wrote a number of large-scale partitas
for organ which begin with a harmonisation of a chorale which
is then varied. In the Partita O Gott, du frommer Gott the
chorale is followed by eight variations. It is generally assumed
that every variation is related to a stanza of the chorale.
The Dutch musicologist Albert Clement has studied this partita
and some of his findings are mentioned in the booklet. In the
light of this it would have been useful if the text of the chorale
had been printed in the booklet.
Bach's predecessor as Thomaskantor in Leipzig was Johann
Kuhnau. His oeuvre is large and consists mainly of vocal works,
but his keyboard works are also of great importance. Among the
best known are his six 'biblical sonatas', early examples of
programme music. The first is about the battle between David
and Goliath, which begins with a graphic depiction of the boasting
of Goliath. The second section is about the trembling of the
Israelites. Kuhnau uses a repetition of notes to express their
fear, and the cantus firmus is a famous chorale by Martin
Luther, 'Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir', after Psalm 130
(Out of the deep). The struggle of David and Goliath and the
latter's defeat are also depicted. The sonata closes with three
sections expressing the joy of the Israelites. In the second
of these Kuhnau vividly depicts the sound of tambourines of
the Israelite women. Johannes Geffert emphasizes this through
The last item in the programme is one of the best-known specimens
of German baroque organ music and frequently recorded: the Praeludium
in e minor by Nicolaus Bruhns. He was a brilliant organist
- pupil of Buxtehude - and violinist. According to historical
accounts he could play both instruments simultaneously. His
brilliance as an organist is impressively reflected in this
prelude, one of two in the same key. This one is the larger
of the two, and consists of five sections: three free passages
are interspersed with two fugues. This piece is written in the
stylus phantasticus, which was predominant in Northern
Germany and shows the influence of the Italian concertante style.
The only non-German part of the programme is devoted to pieces
from a collection of music for the carillon, put together by
Johan de Gruytters, himself a player of the carillon in Antwerp.
The collection contains 194 pieces each of which was amendable
to being played at the carillon but also on other keyboards
and even treble and bass instruments. I assume these pieces
are included because of the ties between De Gruytters and Antwerp
where this organ was built in the Sint-Pauluskerk. They are
written in the galant idiom: the right hand plays the melody
whereas the left is mostly reduced to an accompaniment. The
character of these pieces is various as the tracklist shows.
The two best-known are Het Carillon van Duijnkerke -
an imitation of the carillon in Dunkirk, a city in the north
of France which since 1662 was part of French Flanders - and
the allegro (No 194 in the collection - track 20). Johannes
Geffert has put four pieces together as a 'sonata': andante,
giga allegro, menuet and rondeau. Le bergeri is a typical
pastoral piece and shows the influence of the NoŽls then
so popular in France.
This organ is definitely worthy of recording attention. Personally
I would have liked a somewhat different programme, preferably
with lesser-known works from the Southern Netherlands - as Belgium
was called when the organ was built. This organ is also not
the ideal instrument for North German organ music. The prelude
by Bruhns is actually quite disappointing something exacerabted
by the too slow tempo Johannes Geffert has chosen. The character
of the stylus phantasticus with its rapid alternation
of contrasting sections and phrases is not very well explored.
I also think the tempi of some variations in Bach's partita,
and especially the last, are a bit too slow.
Otherwise this disc has given me much pleasure. Recording an
organ in a large church isn't easy, but the recording engineer
has done a brilliant job. Johannes Geffert has also managed
to adapt his style of playing to the acoustic, as in particular
his performance of the sonata by Kuhnau shows Ė the latter being
one of the highlights of this disc. The pieces from the collection
of De Gruytters work very well on this organ, and Johannes Geffert
has taken the opportunity here to show the colour of the organ
in the choice of registers.
Unfortunately the booklet leaves much to be desired. It contains
the disposition of the organ but not the registers used in the
various items. The tracklist gives neither the keys of the pieces
by Leyding and Bruhns nor the number in Schmieder's catalogue
for Bach's Partita. Also incorrect are the numbers of some of
the carillon pieces: 'Het Carillon van Duijnkerke' (track 12)
and the last movement of the 'sonata' (track 16) have the same
number: 119, although they are completely different. In the
liner-notes the name of De Gruytters is misspelled, and the
original description of Kuhnau's sonata is not without errors
either. Lastly, nowhere is the date of the recording given.
These are unfortunate blots on an otherwise enjoyable production.
† Johan van Veen
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