Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
Complete Organ Works
Praeludium und Fuge in a-moll [6:07]
Praeludium und Fuge in g-moll [8:23]
Fuge für die Orgel in as-moll [8:44]
Choralvorpiel und Fuge über “O Traurigkeit, o Herseleid” [9:52]
Elf Choralvorspiele:-
Mein Jesu, der du mich [5:35]
Herzliebster Jesu [3:52]
O Welt Ich muss dich lassen [3:23]
Herzlich tut mich erfreuen [2:12]
Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele [2:12]
O wie selig seid ihr doch, ihr Frommen [2:23]
O Gott du frommer Gott [4:44]
Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen [2:56]
Herzlich tut mich verlangen [2:34]
Herzlich tut mich verlangen [4:13]
O Welt, ich muss dich lassen [3:15]
Edouard Oganessian (organ)
rec. 1-2 November 2010, Cathédrale Sainte-Marie de Riga, Latvia
SAPHIR LVC 1133 [70:41]
Now that’s what you call an organ! The Walcker Organ in Riga Cathedral in Latvia is famed as the second largest in Latvia. It is a colossus of four manuals and 6768 speaking stops. Built in 1882, this organ survived WWII bombing as well as dubious restoration methods to which many organs of this period have fallen prey. This mighty instrument could not be better suited for Brahms’ organ works. The characteristic use of many 8’ registers at once sets this Romantic instrument apart from earlier organs and provides the orchestral sound which composers such as Mendelssohn and Reger desired. This sound is most clearly demonstrated in the third of the Eleven Choral preludes (track 10) O Welt ich muss dich lassen (O world I must leave you). The warm, resonant sound of a combined force of up to twelve 8’ stops gives a similar impression to a whole string orchestra playing in unison and Edouard Oganessian’s elegant treatment of the sighing figure (paired, descending quavers in the lower parts) add to the impression of bowed instruments and squeeze every last drop of emotion out of this reflective and personal piece. The Eleven Choral Preludes were the last works that Brahms wrote. They clearly pay homage to Bach in their form but are otherwise short, introverted examinations of themes surrounding death. Schmücke dich, o liebe Seele (Deck thyself O my soul) is particularly beautifully played by Russian educated Oganessian. The pianistic accompanying parts have a lovely flow about them whilst the chorale melody, at the top of the texture, is carefully shaped to give this miniature piece the poise that it requires. The registration chosen for this chorale prelude is just the flute stops. These wooden pipes naturally take a little longer to speak than the metal pipes, and therefore a slower tempo and more flexibility would have given this and others in the collection a bit more gravitas. The most anguished chorale prelude is number 7 O Gott du frommer Gott (O God you righteous God) which uses three manuals to create different dynamics but using the same sort of sound. The performance here is filled with greater drama and truly pulls at the heart strings. The last chorale prelude is another setting of O Welt ich muss dich lassen. The warmth of the sound in this piece is like hot chocolate on a cold evening and leaves the listener feeling calm and reassured, which is arguably an indication of Brahms’ own view of his impending death.
The fugual works on this CD are all from a much earlier period in Brahms’ life and were probably written when he was about 23. Whilst again there is a clear nod in Bach’s direction, the linear notes remind us that it is actually Robert Schumann who advised Brahms to study contrapuntal form and there is a Schumann-like influence in these pieces. The Prelude and Fugue in A-flat utilises pianistic techniques and lacks a solid form that is always present in the orchestral works. However, the exciting sounds of the organ - this time using more dramatic reed stops - and the virtuosic dexterity of the organist more than make up for the lack of depth in the composition. The G minor Prelude and Fugue makes use of a similar sound world with a richer foundation; the pedal is given some real vigour. The pianistic elements are once again handled expertly by Oganessian and the fugue is assertively introduced and well controlled.
The sound quality of this recording is first rate but how could information about the organ be omitted from the liner notes? The playing is very commendable but it is really the superb Walcker organ that will charm wallets from pockets and this should definitely be addressed by the record label for future organ recordings.
Hannah Parry-Ridout 

A wonderful instrument, repertoire and some first-rate playing.