Arvo P&ÄRT (b.1935)
Mein Weg Hat Gipfel und Wellentäler (1988) [8:05]
Annum per Annum (1980) [7:34]
Pari Intervallo (1976) [5:31]
Einojuhani RAUTAVAARA (b.1928)
Toccata, op.59 (1971) [6:44]
Laudatio Trinitatis (1969) [9:19]
Ta Tou Theou, op.30 (1967) [11:38]
Sofia GUBAIDULINA (b.1931)
Hell und Dunkel (1976) [7:41]
Henryk GÓRECKI (1933-2010)
Kantata, op.26 (1968) [15:53]
Kevin Bowyer (organ)
rec. Chapel of St. Augustine, Tonbridge School, Kent, England, May-June 1999. DDD
NIMBUS NI 5675 [78:43]
This very amply-filled CD was originally released in 2001. Nimbus's reasons for titling it 'Arvo Pärt: the Music for Organ' are not self-evident: the four pieces may constitute his complete works, but Einojuhani Rautavaara's contribution is actually longer by a few seconds, and just as impressive. Nor, for that matter, is anyone likely to forget Henryk Górecki's Kantata at the end of Kevin Bowyer's superb, often rollicking recital.
Although this is a disc of religious works, the music is more hat-lifting fire-'n'-brimstone than uplifting chorale. Górecki's Kantata op.26, for example, begins and ends as a tsunami of dissonance in huge chords, a veritable rude awakening for those who know only his gentle Third Symphony. Bowyer's programme opens with Rautavaara's Toccata op.59, which is more recognisably diatonic, but still very noisy in places. Much the same can be said of Rautavaara's two other featured works, though Laudatio Trinitatis contains arguably his finest organ music. The odd-looking title Ta Tou Theou is Greek (τά τού Θεού) for 'that which is God's', a snippet from Jesus's famous "Render unto Caesar" speech in the St Matthew Gospel.
Sofia Gubaidulina's Hell und Dunkel - like Rautavaara's Ta Tou Theou and Pärt's Trivium, somewhat pretentiously intended to be written, for no compelling reason, without capitals - is a dramatic phantasmagoria of strange effects, not necessarily congregation-friendly, with an ending that sounds something like a phone left off the hook.
The works by Arvo Pärt are altogether softer, more melodic and presumably far more likely to crop up in a church service somewhere. Christopher Bowers-Broadbent appropriately quotes Pärt in his notes as saying of his music: "I don't want too many things happening." Yet for all its relative straightforwardness, and Pärt's own religious asceticism, his music is never dull. Indeed, it is frequently beautiful in its simplicity of rhythms, melodies and harmonies, as in Annum per Annum, a kind of mini-Mass for organ - which has both an opening and an ending, by the way, in which Pärt demonstrates very ably that he can do stained-glass-rattling loud too. Bowyer has, incidentally, also recorded this for Naxos (8.558182/3, review). Bowyer's recording of Pärt's reflective Pari Intervallo also appears on Nimbus NI5580/1, which is a double-disc selection of mainly modern British works for organ also played on the excellent Marcussen organ in the Chapel of St. Augustine at Tonbridge School in Kent.
Pari Intervallo is an emotionally intense work, but not "probably Pärt's most beautiful composition", as Bowers-Broadbent, who has recorded it himself, writes: there are simply too many other works of Pärt's with a greater claim. Incidentally, Mein Weg Hat Gipfel und Wellentäler is German for 'My Path Has Peaks and Troughs': where Bowers-Broadbent got the dictionary that gave a "possible translation", as he puts it, of "my journey has great heights and wavy depths" is anyone's guess!
In all these works, Kevin Bowyer gives yet another virtually irreproachable performance, by this time nearing the end of his recording contract with Nimbus that has given a grateful posterity around 50 CDs. The discography available on his website is three years out of date, but already 14 pages long! Bowyer's incredible Sorabji Organ Project is still unfurling, but its final completion promises to be one of the greatest organ events in the history of music.
Sound and production are of the highest quality. The CD booklet has an attractively colourful design - a far cry from Nimbus's earlier days! The notes by organist Christopher Bowers-Broadbent are well written, though perhaps more flowery than informative. Curiously, the back inlay track listing is laid out differently from the one inside the booklet, grouping the works under composer - on the disc the playing order is mixed. There is a spelling mistake in the German title of one of Pärt's work ('Wennentäler' should be 'Wellentäler'), though this is corrected inside the booklet.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk
see also review by Dominy Clements
Bowyer gives yet more virtually irreproachable performances.