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Joseph HAAS (1879-1960)
Kirchensonate No. 1 in F Major, Op. 62 No. 1 (1925-26) [6:20]: No. 2 in D Minor, Op. 62 No. 2 (1925-26) [9:12]
40 Choralfughetten (c. 1905-06): No. 3 [1:03]: No.4 [0:58]: No.13 [1:22]: No.17 [0:55]: No.21 [1:23]: No.26 [1:02]: No.31 [0:56]: No.33 [1:05]: No.34 [1:26]: No.35 [1:27]
Praeludium No. 11 in E Major (c.1904-09) [2:06]
Max REGER (1873-1916)
Aria nach dem Choralvorspiel "O Mensch bewein dein Sünde groß" (After J.S. Bach's BWV 622) [4:40]
Tone Poems (4) after Arnold Böcklin, Op. 128, No. 1, Der geigende Eremit arr. for Violin and Organ [6:51]
Josef RENNER Jr (1868-1934)
Organ Suite No. 1, Op. 56; II. Canzone arr. for Violin and Organ (1929) [3:57]
Interludium in F Major, Op. 85 (1929) [6:20]
Sreten Krstić (violin)
Ludwig Schmitt, Norbert Düchtel (organ)
rec. August 2020, Kirche Hl.Walburga, Beilngries, Germany
TYXART TXA19131 [51:50]

In this astutely programmed disc, the music of three near-contemporary German composers is fruitfully contrasted. There are Church Sonatas for violin and organ, arias, solo organ pieces and arrangements involving either the solo organ or violin and organ.

The focus is on the music of Joseph Haas who was influenced by Reger – which makes the inclusion of Reger’s music in the disc the more logical – and wrote two major operas and a sequence of oratorios among many other works. He was also a potent influence on a younger generation of musicians; Eugen Jochum and Wolfgang Sawallich, Karl Amadeus Hartmann, Karl Höller and many others attended his master classes. Attacked by the Nazis for his progressive musical leanings and Catholicism he led the way in Munich as a force for good during the reconstruction years after the war.

His two Church Sonatas date from 1925-26. The first is a Christmas piece, warmly and expressively lyrical, with Ludwig Schmitt at the organ console and Sreten Krstić playing with subtle colouration and decorative refinement, not least in the music’s more avuncular and ardent sections. It’s been some time since I last heard Krstić, who was Celibidache’s concertmaster in Munich, but he has not lost anything of his elegance and patrician tonal beauty. The second sonata is based on the Kyrie eleison in the minor with an embedded March theme and a death-shadowed folkloric patina. This is lovely music, purposeful and functional, and which succeeds in its aim, in the composer’s words about the purpose of music, ‘…to delight, not offend’.

The ten selected Choralfughetten, of which there are forty, were written around 1905-06 and have only recently appeared in print. They include both Catholic and Protestant chorales and whilst relatively early show the influence of his teacher, Reger. None, of course, is extended in length, so there’s no real development to consider – none much extends above 80 seconds – but they are self-confident in utterance and authoritatively performed by Norbert Düchtel. The last Haas work is the Praeludium No. 11 in E Major, a stirring but also brief piece that lay in the composer’s archive for decades and has recently appeared.

It’s fitting, as I said, that Haas’s teacher should be represented. Reger’s Aria on "O Mensch bewein dein Sünde gross” is for violin and organ, a beautiful theme treated with due honour; it’s quite tricky to balance the solo violin against the organ in a work such as this but the engineers have succeeded. Once again, the violinist plays eloquently, as indeed he does in Der geigende Eremit, Reger’s own arrangement of one of his Böcklin tone poems originally cast for solo violin and orchestra.

The last of the composing triumvirate is Josef Runner, Junior, an established organ composer some five years Reger’s senior. The Canzone from his Organ Suite No.1 is recast for violin and organ and has plenty of succulent opportunities for expressive nuance – which the violinist is keen to explore - in an ethos that comes close to Light Music of a persuasively lyric kind. His Interludium comes from the same year and is again evidence of a refined compositional mind and one happy with the status quo.

This is the kind of CD that could easily be overlooked in the deluge of discs still being produced. It doesn’t make a fetish of having premiere recordings, though I suspect that a number of these pieces are precisely that, but is very well produced, annotated and recorded. All three musicians play with ardour and intelligence.

Jonathan Woolf

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