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Petr EBEN (1929-2007) The Organ Music - 1
Laudes (1964) [21:24]
Job (1987) [43:01]
Hommage Buxtehude (1987) [7:35]
Halgeir Schiager (organ of Hedvig Eleonora Kyrkan, Stockholm)
rec. Hedvig Eleonora Kyrkan, Stockholm, June 1996. DDD
HYPERION CDA67194 [72:00]

Reviewed as lossless download from hyperion-records.co.uk (also available in mp3, both with pdf booklet, and on CD).

Hyperion released their last budget-price Helios CDs in March 2015. Despite the very high quality of the series as a whole – I have only ever come across one semi-dud – and the very attractive price, it appears that sales simply didn’t justify the continuation of the label. That doesn’t preclude the offering of some real bargains, however: at any given time some half-dozen or so CDs and downloads of recordings which have not sold well, usually through no fault of their own, are offered in Hyperion’s ‘Please buy me’ sale.

At the time of writing, in addition to this Petr Eben recording for 5.25 on CD and download, a Convivium recording of Buxtehude Sonata, Op.1 (CDA67236), Children of our Time (CDA67575) and five volumes of the complete Liszt piano works are available at the same price (10 for one of the Liszt recordings on a 2-CD set), together with music by Byrd (Playing Elizabeth’s Tune, CDGIM992) and Christmas Carols and Motets (CDGIM010) from the Tallis Scholars on Gimell at 5.88 each, download only. These offers will have been withdrawn by the time that you read this – the Eben had already returned to 7.99 for the download and 10.50 on CD and the ‘Please buy me’ selection had been temporarily suspended by the time that I had completed this review – but there will be others in their place and there are also several scattered recordings at special prices for those prepared to search the Hyperion catalogue.

Additionally, some older recordings, deleted from the main catalogue, remain available from the Archive Service on CD and as downloads, often at attractive prices in download format. I’m surprised and sorry to see Handel’s Parnasso in Festa (CDA67701/2) among the recent deletions – it seems no time at all since I was welcoming it as a Recording of the Month – review – but it can still be downloaded for 15.49, complete with pdf booklet.

Even when this Petr Eben recording has returned to full price, it’s still very well worth obtaining. For one thing it offers better value than its rivals on other labels, which contain just Job, sometimes eked out with plainsong or readings from the Hebrew text, the latter, on a deleted Supraphon recording, not much use if, like me, you got no further than the opening chapters of Teach Yourself Biblical Hebrew.

Job consists of a series of powerful commentaries on parts of the biblical story – eight sections in all – and it receives a powerful performance, very well recorded. The Dux recording by Andrzej Bialko (DUX0913), which I streamed from Qobuz, is also very good but it offers only Job, making it short value, and the download comes without booklet.

There’s a disclaimer that ‘full digital artwork is not available’ for this download and a warning of some spelling oddities arising from scanning, but I didn’t find any of these and there’s all that you could want here, including a full specification of the organ. Hyperion’s less-than-best is better than some labels’ best offerings.

With Laudes and Eben’s homage to Buxtehude book-ending the programme, this makes an excellent introduction to his music. Even when it has reverted to full price, the extra works mean that it will remain very good value. This is not easy music but it’s well worth making the effort and it encourages me to try the other four volumes in the series: CDA67195, 67196, 67197 and 67198. There’s also an interesting coupling of Eben’s Piano Trio, with Trios by Smetana and Martinů, on CDA67730 – review.

Brian Wilson

 


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