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Josef Gabriel RHEINBERGER (1839-1901)
Organ Concerto No. 2 in G minor op. 177 [24:53]
Modest MUSSORGSKY (1839-1881)
Pictures at an Exhibition (1874) [35:36]
Jörg Endebrock and Susanne Rohn (organs)
Konrad Graf (percussion)
rec. 2017, Lutherkirche Wiesbaden
Reviewed in SACD binaural stereo
HD-KLASSIK 3D-001701 [60:31]

This unusual disc from the Cybele label’s new ‘hd-klassik’ division takes their binaural SACD recordings to new heights. In this instance we find ourselves sat between the 1911 Walcker organ and the 1979 Klais organ built at opposite ends of the Lutherkirche in Wiesbaden in arrangements that make full use of this peculiarity of the venue.

Rheinberger’s Second Organ Concerto uses an orchestra without woodwinds, the sonorities of which were apparently deemed by the composer to be too similar to those of the soloist. In this arrangement the historic Walcker organ’s rounded, more romantic sound takes the orchestral part while the brighter Klais organ is the soloist. The timpani add impact to dramatic moments, but the contrast between the original’s strings, trumpets and horns and organ in this concerto is inevitably rather lost in this context. This remains effective music of course, the rousing harmonies of the first and third movements making for an exciting ride, and the elegant lyricism of the central Andante expressed with subtlety.

Even more remarkable is an arrangement of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition that uses the percussion part from Ravel’s orchestration to underpin the two organs as they exploit the composer’s colourful depictions. There is playful interaction in skittish movements such as the Tuileries and Limoges: The Market, and the extremes of mood that takes from here to the Catacombs are very effective. Part of me would like to get rid of the percussion part altogether. This music was originally written for piano, and there is real no need to hold onto Ravel’s writing for instruments that blend and enhance the sound of an orchestra, but sound disconnected and at times downright cheesy when popping out from these organ sonorities. The low drum effects work best, with The Hut on Hen’s Legs turned into a really weighty giant, but the thuds in the final Gates in Kiev soon lose their welcome, and all of those side-drum and cymbal extras elsewhere just seem superfluous – the organs have enough oomph all by themselves.

As you would expect, the sound quality of this recording is pretty spectacular, though I found it sounding more like one massive organ that two separate instruments. The acoustic somehow blends the sound together, so that there is in fact very little in terms of left-to-right hocketing, which might indeed on second thoughts be considered something of a blessing. In the end, this is something of a niche release, of interest to audiophiles and a nice thing to have around, but ultimately not really adding much to our appreciation of these works.

Dominy Clements



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