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The Britannic Organ - Volume 10: Welte’s German organists and their music
rec. 1920s-30s
OEHMS CLASSICS OC849 [68:06 + 72:57]

This sumptuously documented and historically valuable series has now reached double figures. In reviews of earlier releases (Volume 7 ~~ Volume 8) I’ve noted some of the salient features of the Welte rolls but, in any case, the 72 page booklet, securely attached to the gatefold – in German, English and French – tells you everything you need to know.

The German organists in this volume include some of the most prominent to be heard in the 1920s and 1930s. They include Otto Dunkelberg who plays Joseph Renner’s Elegie from his Organ Suite in a very late 1938 roll. One of the revealing things about a series such as this is following just how late into the century Welte continued to produce rolls. The grandiose and powerful playing strongly suggests how fine a musician Dunkelberg was. As previous reviews have stressed, however, much needs to be taken on trust when listening to rolls but one can certainly enjoy some of the quixotic juxtapositions conjured up by Oehms’ programming team. To follow Dunkelberg’s power-house playing with the pliant and bell-festooned Trois Impressions of Karg-Elert, played by the deft Arno Landmann is to voyage far in the Welte spectrum.

Some startling voices are to be heard in these rolls. There’s the Fagott in the Rheinberger Romanze – a beautiful piece played with elegance by Johannes Diebold - and the Vox Coelestis in the second of the Concert Etudes by the less well-known Joseph Kromolicki, as well as the Vox humana in Gustav Knak’s performance of Karg-Elert’s Sarabande, Op.37. There’s the earliest recording – the word is best put in inverted commas, since these aren’t recordings in the conventional sense – of Swedish organ music in the form of Emil Sjögren’s Legends that seems to evoke, in Kurt Grosse’s hands, a particular strand of rhapsodic German organ playing. One of the most magical and intriguing moments here – quite how much is owed to the performer and how much to post-performance editing I doubt we will ever know – is the sound of the Aeolian effects in Reger’s Consolation, Op.65 No.4 played by Joseph Messner.

The first disc concentrates on late-nineteenth and early twentieth century music, whilst the companion disc delves back into the Baroque. Alfred Sittard is one the best-known players of earlier music and he plays the first movement of Handel’s Concerto Op.4 No.4 – fine rhythm but plasticity of phrasing too. Knack’s Buxtehude is notable for its soft dynamics.

Günther Ramin, famed as a choral director, plays with grandeur and colour in his own Buxtehude Praeludium whilst Carl Straube plays a sequence of Bach Chorale Preludes in the 1920s, some improbably wide stretches meaning a post-performance editing session must have been required. The final item in the set is a full-blooded 1938 roll of a Handel Concerto played by Dunkelberg who thus has the symmetrical honour of opening and closing the show.

The booklet commentary is extensive including pertinent comment about the music and the performers, though in a number of cases the reader is sent to an earlier volume for biographical material about performers.
Given its very nature this is a niche purchase - for Welte aficionados and also perhaps for those interested in German organ traditions in the first three or so decades of the twentieth-century. They will find that everything possible has been done to allow them to enjoy the material.

Jonathan Woolf
CD 1
Joseph RENNER (1868-1934)
Elegie from Suite for Organ, Op.56 [6:39]
Otto Dunkelberg (organ)
Sigfrid KARG-ELERT (1877-1933)
Trois Impressions, Op. 72: Harmonies du Soir [6:04]
Arno Landmann (organ)
Joseph RHEINBERGER (1839-1901)
Organ Sonata No. 9 in B flat minor, Op. 142: II. Romanze [7:24]
Johannes Diebold (organ)
Joseph KROMOLICKI (1892-1961)
Konzert-Etuden (2), Op. 49, No.1 [5:05]
Kurt Grosse (organ)
Emil SJÖGREN (1853-1918)
Legends, Op. 46, Book 1: I. Andante con devozione: Legends, Op. 46, Book 2: VII. Andante pastorale: Legends, Op. 46, Book 2. IX. Andante spianato [6:49]
Kurt Grosse (organ)
Niels Wilhelm GADE (1817-1890)
Three Pieces for organ, Op. 22: No. 1 in F major [5:15]
Walter Fischer (organ)
Otto Valdemar MALLING (1848-1915)
Aus dem Leben Christi, Op. 63, Book 1: No. 2. Die Versuchung [8:44]
Thaddeus Hofmiller (organ)
Partita in D major, Op. 37: 1. Entrata: 3. Sarabande [4:12]
Gustav Knak (organ)
Alfred SITTARD (1878-1942)
Choral Study: Wenn wir in hochsten Noten sein [4:04]
Alfred Sittard (organ)
Max SPRINGER (1877-1954)
Pastorale (3), Op. 25: No. 1 in A flat major [7:51]
Joseph Messner (organ)
Max REGER (1873-1915)
Organ Pieces: Consolation Op.65 No.4 [5:54]
Joseph Messner (organ)

CD 2
Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1759)
Organ Concerto No. 4 in F major, HWV292, Op. 4 No. 4: 1st movement [4:50]
Alfred Sittard (organ)
Dieterich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707)
Ciacona in E minor, BuxWV160 [7:42]
Gustav Knak (organ)
Prelude and Fugue in F Major, BuxWV145 [6:04]
Gunther Ramin (organ)
Vincent LÜBECK (1654-1740)
Prelude & Fugue in E [6:37]
Johann PACHELBEL (1653-1706)
Ciacona in F minor [9:41]
Karl Matthaei (organ)
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Prelude and Fugue in C major, BWV531 [7:12]
Walter Fischer (organ)
Chorale Prelude BWV606 'Von Himmel hoch, da komm' ich her' [1:05]
Chorale Prelude BWV611 'Christum wir sollen loben schon' [2:44]
Chorale Prelude BWV619 ‘Christe, du Lamm Gottes’ [2:19]
Chorale Prelude BWV621 'Da Jesus an dem Kreuze stund' [2:19]
Chorale Prelude BWV625 'Christ lag in Todesbanden' [2:38]
Chorale Prelude BWV623 'Wir danken dir, Herr Jesu Christ' [1:50]
Karl Straube (organ)
Antonio VIVALDI (1675-1741) - Johann Sebastian BACH
Concerto in D; Largo BWV 596ii [2:50]
Alfred Sittard (organ)
Johann Sebastian BACH
Orgelbüchlein: ‘Ich ruf’ zu dir, Herr Jesu Christ [3:25]
Georg Frideric HANDEL
Organ Concerto No. 8 in A major, HWV307, Op. 7 No. 2 [12:19]
Otto Dunkelberg (organ)



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