Petr EBEN (1929-2007) The Organ Music - 1 Laudes (1964) [21:24] Job (1987) [43:01] Hommage à 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 These offers will have been withdrawn by the time that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.