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Great European Organs No.93 - The Walcker Organ of Riga Dom, Latvia
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865 -1936)
Prelude and Fugue in D major, Op.93 (c.1906) [9:18]
Prelude and Fugue in D minor, Op.98 (1914) [7:46]
Vyacheslav KARATYGIN (1875 -1925)
Prelude and Fugue ‘A La Russe’ [10:04]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 -1750)
Prelude and Fugue in D major BWV 532 (c.1710) [11:10]
Georgy CATOIRE (1861 -1926)
Prelude and Fugue, Op.16 (1913) [12:02]
Alexander GOEDICKE (1877-1957)
Prelude and Fugue in C minor, Op.34, No.1 (1925) [10:13]
Prelude and Fugue in E flat major, Op.34, No.2 (1925) [12:01]
Konstantin Volostnov (organ)
rec. Riga Dom, Riga, Latvia, 2013
PRIORY PRCD1111 [72:34]

The first time I visited Riga, I was fortunate enough to discover that there was an organ recital being held at the Cathedral: I paid my entrance fee and joined over a hundred other concert-goers for a most enjoyable performance. Afterwards I indulged in some excellent Latvian food and beer. It was a great introduction to a magnificent city.

I would not associate Alexander Glazunov with organ music. Most people will think of the cycle of eight symphonies (ninth incomplete), the ballet The Seasons and the Violin Concerto. Yet, the two Prelude and Fugues presented on this CD are interesting examples of the genre. Their starting point is the organ music of César Franck and Saint-Saëns and they follow a trajectory from Bach himself. This is cerebral music rather than something which is extrovert or show-stopping. One characteristic is that Glazunov tends to pad out the music with sequences and scale passages: it can lead to a touch of monotony. The two works could therefore be described as being a little dull in their impact, however there is something intangible about them that appeals to me. I appreciated the opportunity to hear them.

I have never heard of Vyacheslav Karatygin before reviewing this disc. The music reference books allow that he was a Russian critic and composer who wrote a number of songs as well as musicological studies of Mussorgsky and Scriabin. Yet this Prelude and Fugue ‘A La Russe’ is a beautifully contrived piece that lies between impressionism and romance. The liner-notes point out that it was originally conceived as a string quartet, making use of the modality of Russian folksong. It has transcribed well.

Listeners are on familiar territory with Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in D major BWV 532 (liner-notes wrongly state BWV 352 which is the chorale harmonisation of ‘Jesu, der du meine Seele’) which was composed around 1710, however, they should not look for a ‘back to the Baroque’ interpretation of this masterpiece. Konstantin Volostnov turns on all the power of solid romantic reinterpretation of this work, which reflects how many of Bach’s organ works were first heard by Latvian and Russian audiences.

Georgy Catoire is best recalled for his romantic Scriabinesque piano music. He did contribute a symphony to the repertoire as well as some attractive music for violin and piano (review review) and an accomplished piano concerto. This present Prelude and Fugue in C minor is a lugubrious — in a positive sense — and enjoyable work which is characterised by its symphonic development of musical material.

I have only come across some small piano pieces by Alexander Goedicke. In fact, he wrote a great deal of music including operas, symphonies, other orchestral music, a Conzertstück and chamber music. The two Preludes and Fugues belong to that category of music that is interesting but not necessarily hugely inspiring.

The present organ was built between 1882-83 by the German firm of E.F. Walcker and Sons in the city of Ludwigsburg in Baden-Württemberg, Germany. It was inaugurated on 31 January 1884. Major changes were made in 1896 when the pipes of the fourth manual were moved and in 1906 further technical changes were carried out. Some pipes were lost during the Second World War and in 1962 the organ was partially rebuilt. By 1979 the instrument was in a poor state and was duly restored by Flentrop during 1983-84. When I visited the cathedral in 2014 the organ’s façade was being rebuilt. It did not hinder my enjoyment of the recital, as all façade pipes are blind and mute. I look forward to hearing this organ again in the future.

The liner-notes could have been a little more detailed where the works were concerned. With the exception of the Bach, all were new to me. However, the description of the organ and the specification is exactly as it should be. There is a short biography of the Moscow-born organist Konstantin Volostnov.

This is an interesting CD that explores music which is to a large extent contemplative. It could be argued that some of it is also dull and drear, but I would suggest that it makes a refreshing change to have an album of deeply thoughtful, cerebral pieces rather than a sequence of potboilers. They are all superbly played by Volostnov with both conviction and understanding.

I have a soft spot for the Cathedral and this instrument which may make me biased but this disc should speak to anyone who enjoys ‘symphonic’ organ music. The instrument is superb and will appeal to all lovers of a large, romantically engineered organ.

John France



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