GMCD 7194 – Music by Paul Müller-Zürich
Franz Hauk at the Great Klais Organ of Liebfrauenmünster Ingolstadt
American Record Guide November / December 2000
Wachet auf is the slowest performance I know, but the organist has flair, and the organ is glorious. Max Reger’s music is good, but a great organ and a little flair do help to put it across. I like it better than the Wunderlich recording (May/June 1994). The climaxes here are far more spine-tingling.
That familiar melody makes us think of Advent. I t is followed here by a 7-minute piece based on ‘Silent Night’-very gentle.
The sonata strikes me as episodic, the way some people see Bruckner (and the way he is conducted by bad conductors). It mulls along for long stretches, then suddenly burst out in full glory, then just as suddenly pulls back to the meditative again. It is hard to know what to make of it. With an organ this good, the big blasts are quite something, but I don’t get its musical logic. I have often felt this way with Reger, and I keep listening, because over the years many of his works have begun to make sense to me. So far the sonata doesn’t. It ends well, though-a great fugue that pulls everything out at the climax.
The Inferno is one of Reger’s greatest pieces. It’s a fantasy and fugue, and when the fantasy wraps up it pulls together a number of strands to form a glorious sound. In this recording that sound is just perfectly balanced, so every strand is heard. It’s not just engineering; it’s wise registration and careful balancing of the organ voices. I have never heard this better played, and I listen to every recording of it that comes thru here. Nor have I heard it better recorded. It’s even better than lver Kleive’s 1988 Danish recording (FX 74; Jan/Feb 1989), and that was a terrific performance.
Producer Jonathan Wearn is an old hand, and the sound is simply unbeatable. The organ is the Klais in Ingolstadt, where Franz Hauk has been organist since 1982. lngolstadt is half-way between Munich and Nuremberg- the train stops there, but only Germans seem to get off. Next time I’m in the vicinity I must hear this remarkable and powerful instrument.
lf you like the sound of a great organ, this will prove a thrilling release, even if you become aware that Reger has his dull moments. Bear with the learned counterpoint and give full attention to the big moments.- they are quite wonderful, and you will be sure – as I am – that Reger knew how to make the most of this huge, royal, but unwieldy instrument.
The Organ Vol79 No. 314 Page 220
Poor Reger – it seems as if he was as much disliked by many when he was alive as today but I find that the more one listens to his compositions, the more one hears in them and the more one comes to appreciate them. If one pictures in one’s mind the scenes Reger was conveying, much falls into place. Thus the slow introduction in Wachet auf shows the graveyard and the chorale melody, the voice of an angel and the theme of the fugue intimates the dance of joy of an angel. Atmospheric, yes, but requiring careful following. Weihnachten is again atmospheric and into it is carefully woven Stille Nacht, heilige nacht. In his Second Sonata, Op 60, his sense of restlessness in music permeates and the darkness penetrates the chorale Vom himmel hoch before leading to the third movement with staccato motifs and a virtuoso middle section before all is brought to a close in a mass of intensity. His Symphonic Fantasy is said to exceed the possibilities of the organ – certainly it is an extreme work and it intensifies throughout. Indeed, Reger himself agreed that it was probably the most difficult of his works to play. How well Franz Hauk overcomes all the problems of this monumental piece has to be heard and the instrument on which the works are played – Klais 1977 IV/69 is able to cope with the great demands placed upon it.
INTERNATIONAL RECORD REVIEW – JULY
There is hardly a more thrilling sound in the whole of music than the climax of one of Max Reger¹s massive contrapuntal organ pieces: it rattles the air in your lungs and electrifies the space around you. That mountain-range of masterpieces is of such a consistent quality of inspiration and technical invention of ambitious architectural form and psychologically adventurous content that it establishes Reger, to my mind, as the most important composer for the organ after Bach. On those grounds, Reger¹s organ music ought to be a part of the everyday diet of ordinary music-lovers, just like Brahms violin piano sonatas and Schubert string quartets. But it isn¹t. Organ music is, of course, a speciality. Another part of the reason is its difficulty: most of it is ferociously demanding of its performers; nor does it come out to meet the listener, except in the sheer excitement of its climaxes.
Reger¹s fondness for juxtaposing the free form of the fantasy with the strict one of the fugue (and he continues the process inside the Second Sonata: the first movement, ŒImprovisation¹, is a sonata-form that exhibits continuous development, and the third, an introduction and fugue, repeats the process in microcosm) tells us something of his own psychology; and the
primal energy that fights to express itself despite the formalities of the fugue has a elemental power that suggests sheer rage. That sense of boiling fury is at its wildest in the Symphonic Fantasia and Fugue, which surges and smashes like a storm at sea, with islands of calm that are swept aside by the next heave from the deep. I am playing it again as I write these words and the hair on my arms is bristling.
That physical aspect of the music means that a recording of Reger on the organ will never capture the full range of the experience it falls further short of the mark than recordings of other media. So a CD has to have some special quality to overcome the approximation inherent in the means of transmission and this one has. Everything here conveys the sense of
vastness, of elemental energy at work in some huge ambit and Guild¹s engineers have made the most of the ten-second reverberation of the Liebfrauenmünster at Ingolstadt, with the Œforeground¹ of the higher-pitched textures distinct and biting while the bass expands to fill the space around it. Franz Hauk, playing on the Klais organ installed there in 1977, produces performances of towering majesty and barely restrained fury (fortunately, they are much more articulate than his idiosyncratic booklet note Guild should have combed his English). Most of the competing recordings of these four pieces turn out to be currently unavailable. One that can still be obtained is Graham Barber¹s performance on the Second Sonata, in a recital that includes Rheinberger, Hoyer and Karg-Elert, played on the Kreienbrink organ of St Johannis in Osnabrück. That, too, is a first-rate reading, rounder than Hauk¹s and less savagely motivated, but truthful in its own way. Hauk¹s disc demands attention, though. Edward Greenfield coined the phrase Œthe tingle test¹ for recordings; this one passes it with room to spare.