Carl RÜTTI (b.1949)
Concerto for Organ, String and Percussion (2011) [26:20]
Tongues of Fire [6:59]
Anton ARENSKY (1861-1906)
Variations on a theme of Tchaikovsky Op.25a (1894) [14:44]
Francis POULENC (1899-1963)
Concerto for Organ, Timpani and Strings in G minor (1938) [23:41]
Martin Heini (organ)
Mario Schubiger (percussion and timpani)
State Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra of Novosibirsk/Rainer Held
rec. January and February 2012, Pfarrkirche St. Katharina Horw, Switzerland
GUILD GMCD 7386 [74:08]
Firstly, let’s welcome the addition of an outstandingly exciting new organ concerto to the contemporary repertoire. And second, let’s salute the performers. It was written in 2011 by the Swiss-born composer Carl Rütti after having been approached by the soloist here, Martin Heini, for a concerto for organ, strings and percussion. A discussion followed, not least because the composer had just written a concerto for organ, though Heini wasn’t aware of the fact. With the triumvirate of composer, soloist and conductor Rainer Held in close conversation, the concerto took shape. The percussion, by the way, includes tom-toms, cymbals, temple blocks, snare drum, tambourine and triangle.
This premiere recording captures the concerto in terrific fidelity. If one was suspicious that this combination mirrored the Poulenc concerto, which has also been recorded in the disc, one can note further that Rütti’s work couldn’t be more different. It has an exciting drive and an energy that may recall Carmina Burana, motoric twentieth-century concerti grossi or film music. But it has plenty of reflective moments too, and a thoughtful slow movement in chaconne form that admits skittish Messiaen-like birdsong in repetitive patterns in music that grows increasingly dramatic. The Blackbird makes its appearance again in the scherzo, rejuvenated and alluring. The finale opens with a rather lovely carol, composed by Rütti, called A Patre unigenitus, and spins variations of captivating breadth and stylistic licence; some could be show tunes, segueing into bluesy twists before opening into a glorious, magnificent peal of exaltation before gently calming down. What a blockbuster!
The Poulenc Concerto is hard pressed to match this sonic spectacular. In its way it’s a staple of the twentieth-century organ concerto repertoire and thus new recordings are welcome. Heini and Held perform it with energetic drive, digging out its fluctuations, and emotive balancing acts, always a Poulenc speciality, with considerable discernment.
The remaining works are Rutti’s Tongues of Fire, a solo work for organ based on the chant Veni sancte spiritus. Once again birdsong is interlaced in vigorous and virtuosic fashion into the fabric of the music. There are little percussive interjections, and colourful washes, and moments too of jazzy syncopation.
Arensky’s Variations on a theme of Tchaikovsky is a very odd bedfellow in this company. It’s a gorgeous piece of music, though, and the State Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra of Novosibirsk does it pretty well, but it continues to sit oddly in the programme.
Never mind, the band deserves its outing after the fine accompanying work in the concertos, and full marks to Held for his contribution. The highlight here, though, is the Rütti concerto, a piece I’ve continued to replay several times with no let-up in enjoyment.
Jonathan Woolf
An outstandingly exciting new organ concerto joins the contemporary repertoire.

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