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Oskar Gottlieb BLARR (b. 1934)
Vier Tänze (2007-2017) [26:23]
Drei Albumblätter (2012/2013) [14:03]
Fünf Intonationen (2014) [8:59]
Der Bach-Pokal – Introduktion, Passacaglia und Choral als
Orgelprobe in honorem Zacharias Hildebrandt (2007) [17:19]
Martin Schmeding (organ)
rec. 2017, Neanderkirche Dusseldorf
Reviewed in CD stereo.
CYBELE RECORDS SACD 061701 [66:45]

This recording was made earlier in the year on the organ of the Neanderkirche, Düsseldorf. The organist is Martin Schmeding, whose impressive recordings of the complete organ works of Max Reger on the Cybele label I reviewed some months ago. Schmeding provides an interesting essay on the history of this instrument. Düsseldorf has become renowned as the "city for modern organs". When suggestions were originally proposed for a new organ at the Neanderkirche, the compelling vision of Gerhard Scharz, in collaboration with Dr. Hubert Myers and the composer Oskar Gottleib Blarr, the church's cantor and organist, resulted in the construction of the present instrument, built by Rieger Orgelbau, and inaugurated in June 1965. By all accounts, at the time, it was quite revolutionary and innovative in design, and has gained popularity with performers and audiences. Of late it has had some restoration work done on it.  Martin Schmeding replaced Blarr as cantor in 1999, so he is intimately familiar with the organ.

Oskar Gottlieb Blarr was born in Sandlack, before 1945 part of Germany, now in Poland. His early organ teacher was Wilhelm Adrian, a Reimen pupil. He later studied Lutheran church music at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater in Hannover, where he also undertook some percussion training. In 1961 he took up his post at the Neanderkirke, Düsseldorf. As a composer, he's had tuition from such notables as Bernd Alois Zimmermann and Krzysztof Penderecki, and had contact with Olivier Messiaen in Düsseldorf, Karlsruhe, Jerusalem, and Paris. His compositional output is wide-ranging, including an opera, four oratorios, choral works, four symphonies, two concertos, chamber and piano music.

Vier Tänze are four contrasting pieces. Holy Tango pitches a Reformation chorale against an Arabic melody. Mephisto-Walzer mit Ave Maria, the longest of the four, alternates a subdued interlude with a dissonant waltz. The jazzy/bluesy-accented Something like a blues is my personal favorite. Blarr's substitution of a sixteen-bar structure for the 'classic' twelve injects a novel slant. There's a piano version of this charming piece, but for this recording he supplied Schmeding with a new version. Estampie II, als Pedalsolo demonstrates the sheer scope of the instrument with its scintillating panoply of kaleidoscopic colours and effects.

Drei Albumblätter are more serious in tone. The first was written for the former federal chancellor Helmut Schmidt, who held ambitions to be an organist. The third calls for some diaphanous sonorites midway. It's cast in a lighter, more genial vein than the other two.

Fünf Intonationen are derived from Concerto SpiritualeDer siebte Engel (The seventh angel). Kaddish für Luigi Nono. The original work uses texts from five authors and is scored for seven voices, winds, harp, percussion and organ. The Five Intonations are short interludes that sit between the texts. Different aspects of the organ are explored. They seem more compositionally advanced than the two previous works being, at times, angular and dissonant and exploring a diverse range of moods.

Der Bach-Pokal (‘The Bach Goblet’) was a commission from the Society of Organ Friends to celebrate the restoration of the Hildebrandt organ in the Stadkirche St. Wenzel in Naumburg, an instrument highly regarded by Bach. Blarr builds chord sequences on the letters B.A.C.H, together with their inversion. The effect demonstrates the organ's capabilities in the context of an imaginary organ rehearsal. It all adds up to a stunning sound spectacle.

Cybele’s SACD provides the listener with three options: i) one-dimensional stereo sound; ii) two-dimensional 5.0 channel surround sound; iii) 3D-binaural-stereo sound. The CDs are hybrids, but an SACD player is required for the high-resolution versions. As an alternative, Cybele offers the 2D and 3D versions as a download on their website. The 3D-binaural-stereo sound is intended for headphone use, giving the listener the experience of a live event with natural sound and spatial impression, with localisation above, below, front and back, approximating to normal human hearing.

I'm delighted to make the acquaintance of Blarr's organ music, and this superb release has widened my horizons considerably. Imagination, ingenuity, sound painting and adventurous harmonic writing are all harnessed to produce some of the most captivating organ music I've ever heard.

Stephen Greenbank



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