Reviews

GMCD 7195 – Triumphal Music for Organ & Orchestra By Jongen, Dupré

The Ingolstadt Philharmonic, Alfredo Ibarra – Conductor, Franz Hauk – Organ

To the CD in our Shop


Essex Chronicle Saturday November 03 2007

The Kind of Instruments Classical Sounds with Chris Green

STILL on the musical letter, “K”. it is Time to feature the King of instruments – the organ. Whatever kind of organ it is (with the exception of the plug-me-in-and play me home organs) there is something majestic about this instrument and it almost assumes a reverential possition in churches where the organ it has been occupied by a: great organist I found that out last year when I conducted a concert in a Paris church where the organist had beenn the late Oliver Messiaen, distinguished internationally as both organist and composer.

My selection on new CDs this week brings together two very different kinds of tradition starting with the baroque organ, best suited for the music of JS Bach.

One of the joys of the Nimbus Re­cords catalogue is the series the com­pany recorded with Kevin Bowyer of the complete works of Bach’s organ music. Many of the recordings were made in Saint Hanks Kirke, Odense, Denmark where there has been an organ since the sixteenth century; and where each year there is a week-long Bach festival. Each volume of music is carefully chosen with contrasting works sharing playing time. Volume 1, released in 1992, starts with ‘the” Toccata and fugue in D minor and takes in Concertos for solo organ as well as Trio sonatas (Nimbus NI 5280). Volume 2 again starts and ends with a Prelude and Fugue {Nimbus NI 5289), but what is noticeable about these recordings is the exquisite sound palette Kevin  Bowyer conjures up from the instru­ment.

Marcel Dupre, French-born in 1886 was, like Durufle, Widor and Messi­aen, one of the great organists of his generation. During his 85 years he also composed prolifically, and one can sample his organ music in an­other multi-CD series from Naxos. Volume 8, which I have chosen at random, features Stefan Engels play­ing an organ in Mannheim in a joy­ful trio of works starting with a set of variations on a well-known Nativity theme (Naxos 8.553920).

For something more majestic, then turn to Franz Hauk playing an organ in Bavaria with the Ingolstadt Phil­harmonic Orchestra conducted by Alfredo Ibarra. Three works are fea­tured, one by the Belgian, Joseph Jongen, and two by Dupre. These are glorious works that one would rarely hear in a concert these days. Why not? They are fine alternatives to Poulenc’s celebrated and glorious Or­gan Concerto. The recording is full-blooded as it needs to be (Guild, GMCD 7195).


Classical Music on the Web – June 2001

Joseph Jongen was the most important musical personality of his generation in Belgium. Pianist, organist, conductor and teacher, he was first and foremost a most distinguished composer who wrote in almost every genre. His large and varied output (over 130 opus numbers) includes a number of works for organ of which Chant de mai and Sonata Eroica are probably best-known to organists. However his masterpiece is the wonderful Symphonie Concertante Op. 81 for organ and orchestra completed in 1926. It is also his most recorded work, though it is still rarely heard in concerts. (I for one have attended two live performances in thirty years!) The piece is written on a large scale, in four substantial movements playing for over half an hour. It opens with an impressive Allegro that begins fugally and later develops a tightly knit symphonic argument. The second movement Divertimento is a delightful Scherzo which at times has folk-like rhythms. The heart of the symphony is the beautiful slow movement Molto lento, a long meditation of great depth and of remarkable harmonic subtlety. The symphony’s last movement is a brilliantly scored, energetic Toccata providing for a rousing conclusion. Eugene Ysaye attended the first performance in Brussels in February 1928 and a few days later he wrote Jongen a characteristically friendly and perceptive long letter, quoted in full in Hauk’s insert notes. Ysaye obviously got to the heart of the Symphonie Concertante and there is indeed nothing to add to his remarkably illuminating comments. He too believed that Jongen had put all his best musical thoughts and his heart into this magnificent masterpiece. For many years the best recorded performance available was that by Virgil Fox with the Orchestre de l’Opera de Paris conducted by Georges Prêtre (originally issued by CAPITAL RECORDS, then re-issued as ANGEL S-26894 and, later still, re-issued in CD format [EMI CDM 5 65075 2] possibly still available). A more recent recording was that by Michael Murray with the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra conducted by Edo de Waart (TELARC DG 10096 published in 1985) which was splendid. Now, as far as I am concerned, I find the present performance second to none, even if Hauk and Ibarra give a more relaxed reading of the Scherzo and have a more expansive approach of the slow movement (14’20 compared to Fox’s 12’26). However, the present performance is beautifully poised and never sluggish, with finely judged tempi.

Marcel Dupré was a remarkable organist and a very fine composer too who wrote extensively for his instruments. His music for organ also includes several works with orchestra or instrumental ensemble. Cortege et Litanie Op.19 No.2, a reworking of some stage music, is one of them. This short piece is superbly crafted and is a fine example of the somewhat lighter side of Dupré’s music. By contrast, the Concerto in E minor Op.31, completed in 1928, is a substantial work, cast in the fairly traditional fast-slow-fast pattern. However Dupré’s approach to the medium is highly personal and he succeeds in blending organ and orchestra in a masterly manner. The first movement opens boldly, then presents three main subjects that make-up for most of the ensuing development. The slow movement has a folk-like second subject contrasting with the chorale-like first one. The last movement is again a brilliant Toccata culminating in a grandiose apotheosis. A major work by all counts. Both Cortège et Litanie and the E minor Concerto are available on NAXOS 8.553922 (Volume 3 of their on-going Dupré series) in excellent performances by Daniel Jay McKinley with the Columbus-Indiana Philharmonic conducted by David Bowden. (This CD also includes Poème héroïque Op.33 and the Symphony in G minor Op.25, and I hope that these pieces will also be recorded by GUILD in the not-too-far future.) Again Hauk’s and Ibarra’s readings are very fine indeed, so that – in the present instance – the decision turns on the coupling.

The recording team has again coped quite successfully with the reverberating acoustics of Ingolstadt Munster.

To sum-up, excellent performances of magnificent pieces in a very warm and natural recorded sound, and one of the finest CD’s of organ music I have heard recently. Unreservedly recommended.
Hubert Culot


THE AMERICAN ORGANIST – MAY 2001

This is the fourth in a set of recordings of music for organ and orchestra and, like its predecessors, provides a much needed addition to organ discography as well as technically stunning and sonically beautiful performances. While Jongen’s Symphonie Concertante is now justly famous as well as popular, a letter from the great violinist Eugène Ysaÿe to Jongen is published for the first time and will prove a gold mine for program annotators. Needless to say, the performance is dashing and rhythmical.

This is the first recording of the concerted version of Dupré’s perennially popular Cortège et Litanie. It is a wonderful piece, imaginatively conceived and worked out, uniting both forces with perfection. I an only opine that the reasons this version is seldom played is that it is (1) short – not even six-and-a-half minutes – and (2) it doesn’t showcase the organist sufficiently. Those who add chimes in the first movement will be surprised that the composer envisioned those “Bs” played on the celesta. Just why a celesta would evoke a solemn procession remains unanswered. Incidentally, it was not first performed by Leopold Stokowski and the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Philadelphia Wanamaker Organ, as the notes state, but in a gala radio broadcast on February 11, 1925, from the auditorium of the New York Wanamaker department store with the noted composer and then-associate conductor of the New York Philharmonic, Henry Hadley, conducting a pick-up orchestra with Dupré as soloist. It was a “concert to be remembered” that included organ, and orchestra performances of Bach’s Toccata, Adagio and Fugue, Bossi playing his Concerto in A Minor, Palmer Christian playing DeLamarter’s Concerto in E, and Carles Courboin playing the Widor Sixth Symphony.

The 1938 Concerto, is also seldom heard but for different reasons, probably stemming from the austerity of Dupré’s later music. The concerto bears all of Dupré’s rhythmic hallmarks combined with his advanced tonal explorations, all deftly woven from less than inspired, and consequently unmemorable, themes.

The playing of both Franz Hauk and the Ingoldstadt Philharmonic is brilliant. All of their CDs are indispensable additions to your library of recorded organ literature, much of it never recorded before.
Rollin Smith


RADIO TÉLÉVISION BELGE DE LA COMMUNAUTÉ FRANÇAISE

Centre de Production de Liège

La postérité fut très injuste envers le compositeur américain Horatio Parker (1863 – 1919) qui fut l’élève de Rheinberger à Munich et enseigna ensuite au Conservatoire National de New York. Son ” Concerto ” pour orgue et orchestre nous offre un troisième motif de réjouissance : tout en étant de conception traditionnelle, cette œuvre très touchante, digne et noble mérite de survivre, surtout dans l’interprétation exhaustive offerte par Franz Hauk et Alfredo Ibarra. Il est d’ailleurs curieux de trouver à certains moments de cette œuvre des tournures mélodiques qui rappellent précisément Joseph Jongen.

Enfin les compositions pour orgue et orchestre des deux gloires françaises que sont Charles-Marie Widor (1844 – 1937) et Marcel Dupré (1886 – 1971) nous montrent deux admirables techniciens rompus à tous les secrets de l’art musical : le premier avec son imposante ” Symphonie ” pour orgue et grand orchestre (en fait une compilation de deux brillants mouvements de sa 6ème Symphonie et du très émouvant mouvement lent de sa 2ème Symphonie pour orgue solo) ; et le second avec son superbe ” Cortège et Litanie “, suivi de son ” Concerto ” plus moderne et prospecteur.

En conclusion ces deux disques font vraiment honneur au label GUILD qui réussit à la fois le pari d’imposer avec magnificence ces œuvres grandioses relativement peu enregistrées, et celui de nous les présenter dans une prise de son parfaite, véritable modèle du genre.
Michel TIBBAUT , ir.


American Record Guide November / December 2000

Guild continues its series of organ-orchestra works (earlier instalment include music by Widor, Parker, Gounod, Dubois, Guilmant, and Saint-Saens) using the same pairing of Hauk and the lngoistadt orchestra. Jongen’s sumptuous masterpiece of 1926 has had only a few recordings over the years, which is a shame. The public took note when Fox recorded it in Paris (now available on EMI 65075). His performance remains for many the model. Nonetheless, Hauk does an admirable job. Ibarra likes to have the brass-especially the horns and trumpets-exceed the dynamic markings, which always covers the organ part. Final cadences are often held long and then given a quick crescendo. The final cadence of the last movement is needlessly milked, and the reverberation seems tampered with, as though the engineer twisted the volume knob to the right. Miking closer to the organ would help balance the forces. For greater evenness and organ clarity, get the Fox recording or Wedd with the Calgary Philharmonic under Bernardi (CBC 5113). Guillou with the Dallas Symphony (Dorian 90200) is indifferent and too hurried.

Dupré’s Arrangement of Cortege et Litanie dates from the 1920s, when he found the organ-orchestra pairing to his likng. He did several transcriptions like this. There is much more parity in this piece. Ibarra must have substituted a light wood stick for his lead one: the organ shines through. Further, some tuned finger cymbals are heard in the beginning (not used in other recordings) that impart a delicacy to this supposedly stately procession. My only complaint is that the volurne of the I-V-I pattern in the timpani at the close resembles the cadence heard from the drummer on those old slave galleys as he pounded out the rowing strokes. Too much! That said, this is a good performance. Filsell with Wordsworth (Guild 7136) is too hasty; best competition comes from McKinley on Naxos 553922: nice balance with the smoothest string sound.

The Concerto in E minor (1934) is not as popular as Duprés G-minor Symphony but it yields many rewards. There is plenty of give- and-take in this three-movement work and ample room for solo virtuosity. Hauk does his best with it, and I think if the venue and orchestra were different the result would be better. Distant miking and heavy orchestral support diminish the organ’s presence. There is some similarity between this performance and Meldau’s (Motette 40201), except there is much better balance in the latter and far more sensitivity to the orchestral lines. The best recordings are by Preston with the Adelaide Symphony (ABC 770008) and the aforementioned Mc Kinley.
METZ


INTERNATIONAL RECORD REVIEW – JULY

Jongen¹s Symphonie concertante is one of the most striking of his late works. Extravagant in style, this is music which marries Impressionistic orchestration with a neo-Romantic harmonic sense that at times (as in the memorable slow movement) suggests a Messiaen-like free approach to tonality. The work is superbly structured, with the contrapuntal first movement (reminding us that Jongen was at one time Professor of Fugue at the Brussels Conservatoire) giving way to a Divertimento of charm and grace that is reminiscent of Ravel in its melodic contours. Throughout, Jongen¹s keen ear for the colouristic possibilities of the combination of organ and orchestra is notable, ranging from a hot-house orientalism to textures of clarity and delicacy. Overall the inventiveness of the work makes for a very enjoyable listening experience, especially in the Toccata finale, whose glowing colours prove genuinely triumphal.

This music needs an organist of imagination and showmanship and in Franz Hauk, who is resident organist at the Ingolstadt Minster, we have just such a virtuoso. He plays with excellent musicianship and is intelligent in his choice of registration. In the Ingolstadt Philharmonic he has a partner that is regrettably not of quite the same polish and accomplishment, but I found that occasional infelicities of string tone did not seriously detract from the performance. Certainly this version supersedes the classic 1961 disc by Virgil Fox (with the Paris Opera Orchestra under Georges Prêtre), whose recording quality is rather dull by comparison.

The Dupré works are treated with similar élan and command, with the quiet, sustained playing in the Cortège et Litanie (more familiar in its version for solo organ) particularly effective. The tougher material of the concerto calls for a dramatic response and Hauk¹s playing is especially good in the finale¹s extended cadenza. He has also written the generally helpful booklet notes, which include a full specification of his 1977 Klais instrument.

These works pose horrendous problems for recording engineers and so it is a pleasure to note that Guild¹s team have produced an impressive result here, in which the organ and orchestra are well integrated without excessive detriment to either party. The recording comes from the cavernous acoustic of the Ingolstadt Minster, with a full eight seconds of echo; as a result, the recording needs to be played at quite a high level for its entire richness to become apparent.
John Kersey