Helmut WALCHA (1907-1991)
Chorale Preludes 2
Full tracklist at end of review
Wolfgang Rubsam (organ)
rec. 2 December 2011, First Presbyterian Church, Springfield, Illinois, USA
NAXOS 8.572911 [59.21]
This CD represents the second of what is expected to be four volumes of Helmut Walcha’s chorale preludes. They are performed by his student Wolfgang Rubsam (b.1946). My review of the first volume can be found here.
In Lutheran liturgy a chorale prelude still precedes the congregational singing of the chorale as it has since J.S. Bach and before. In other Christian denominations a chorale prelude suitable for the church season may be played at the start or end of a service. Therefore chorale preludes are, by their nature and purpose, short declamations on a really quite specific idea and must incorporate the chorale melody. This perhaps limits the artistic freedom of the composer and makes the genre highly suitable for teaching purposes, which is one way that Walcha used his compositions. This makes it quite difficult to sit and listen to a whole CD of very short pieces, each with a different character, tempo and registration. While Rubsam’s project of recording all of these works will certainly be an achievement for him as a performer and will create a lasting record for future generations it does not make for a particularly enjoyable evening’s listening.
This taken into account, some of the chorale preludes are incredibly stylish. Walcha’s own compositional method combines with Rubsam’s command of the instrument to create satisfying and successful miniatures. Particularly enjoyable is Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn which features a jagged yet joyful theme which is treated contrapuntally using playful mutation stops creating a rather jokey atmosphere. The influence of J.S. Bach on Walcha’s compositions is crystal clear in O Mensch, bewein dein Sunde gross. As with Bach’s piece on this chorale in the Orgelbüchlein,Walcha uses a “sighing” figure of a falling tone/semitone to express the solemnity of the intended season, Passiontide.
This disc is a pleasure for the quality of composition and skilful performance. On the other hand the lack of continuity due to the very short length of the works makes it quite a taxing listening experience and left me a rather exhausted reviewer.
More chorale preludes, more successful playing but a rather exhausted reviewer.
No. 1. Lobt Gott, ihr Christen alle gleich [2:39]
No. 2. Vom Himmel hoch da komm ich her [01:31]
No. 3. Herr Christ, der einig Gottes Sohn [2:39]
No. 4. O süsser Herre Jesu Christ [3:29]
No. 5. Gottes Sohn ist kommen [1:57]
No. 6. Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern [3:15]
No. 7. O Jesu Christe, wahres Licht [1:40]
No. 8. Lobt Gott den Herrn, ihr Heiden all [2:47]
No. 9. O Mensch, bewein dein Sunde gross [4:04]
No. 10 O armer Sunder [1:58]
No. 11. Jesu, deine Passion [3:28]
No. 12. Christ ist erstanden [2:24]
No. 13. Mit Freuden zart zu dieser Fahrt [5:47]
No. 14. Komm, Gott Schopfer, heiliger Geist [2:40]
No. 15. Heiliger Geist, du Troster mein [1:30]
No. 16. Such, wer da will, ein ander Ziel [3:05]
No. 17. Lobet den Herren, den machtigen Konig der Ehren [3:00]
No. 18. Wenn wir in hochsten Noten sein [3:05]
No. 19. Gott des Himmels und der Erden [2:01]
No. 20. Der Tag ist hin, mein Jesu, bei mir bleibe [5:11]
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