Reviews

GMCD 7182 – Works for Organ & Orchestra by Widor, Jongen, Parker

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

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Orgel & Orchester

Guild Music hat unter dem Titel Trimphal Music for Organ & Orchestra bzw. Works for Organ & Orchestra vier sehr bemerkenswerte CD’s veröffentlicht, die uneingeschränkt jedem Freund der symphonischen Orgel zu empfehlen sind: GMCD 7182 bietet Widors Allegro, Andante und Final aus der Orgelsymphonie g-Moll op. 42/2 in Widors Fassung für Orgel und Orchester sowie Stücke von Joseph Jongen (Alleluja op. 112; Hymne op. 78) und Horation Parker (Concerto, vier Sätze). Auf GMCD 7185 sind die Komponisten Charles Gounod (Fantaisie sur l’hymne National Russe; Suite Concertante, vier Sätze), Théodore Dubois (Fantaisie triomphale), Alexandre Guilmant (Adoration) sowie Eugène Gigout (Grand Chœur dialogué) vertreten. GMCD 7187 bringt Camille Saint-Saëns (Romance pour violon, harpe et orgue op. 27; Sérénade pour orgue, harpe, violon et alto op. 15), Alexandre Guilmant (Marche élégiaque op. 74/1; 2ème Marche funèbre op. 41/3; Symphonie en La Majeur op. 91), Charles Gounod (Hymne à Sainte Cécile, Trio pour violon, orgue et harpe) und Théodore Dubois (Hymne Nuptial pour violon, harpe et orgue) zu Gehör. Auf GMCD 7195 interpretierten Franz Hauk und das Philharmonische Orchester Ingolstadt unter der Leitung von Alfredo Ibarra Werke von Joseph Jongen (Symphonie concertante op. 81) und Marcel Dupré (Cortège et Litanie op. 19/2 in der Fassung für Orgel und Orchester; Concerto e-Moll op. 31). Es handelt sich bei allen vier CD’s um einfach wunderschöne, hervorragend interpretierte Musik. Schade ist nur, dass in lauten Passagen trotz grosser Entfernung der Mikrofone die unschön-herben Klänge der Klais-Orgel nicht vermeidbar waren. Ein adequateres Instrument wäre sehr zur empfehlen gewesen!
gl

Classical Music on the Web – June 2001

Charles-Marie Widor has written a huge amount of organ music, the crown of it being his ten organ symphonies, a genre he really created. His Symphonie en Sol mineur Op. 42 for organ and orchestra, a commission of the Philharmonic Society to mark the 10th anniversary of the Willis organ in the Royal Albert Hall, was completed in 1882. It was first performed in August of that year. Though the original commission was for an organ concerto, Widor decided – for whatever reason – not to compose a new work but rather to rework some existing material. Actually the outer movements are drawn from his Organ Symphony No. 6 Op. 42/2 on which he was then working. The slow movement derives from his Organ Symphony No. 2 Op.13/2 composed ten years earlier. However, the symphony as such is a quite impressive piece of music in its own right, even though a slight stylistic dichotomy may show because of the work’s origins. The central movement is more traditional than the outer ones which are fine examples of Widor’s maturity, but the whole work is coherent enough and eschews any suspicion of eclecticism. This is a major work which repays repeated hearings. The symphony was performed in Philadelphia in March 1919, the conductor then was Stokowski who apparently made some changes to Widor’s orchestration though we are not told to what extent he “tinkered” with it. The present recording incorporates Stokowski’s “orchestration” and Franz Hauk’s cadenzas.

Joseph Jongen composed only three works for organ and orchestra of which the Symphonie Concertante Op. 81 of 1926 is his unquestionable masterpiece. Hymne Op. 78 for organ and string orchestra was composed in 1924 and is a peaceful meditation unfolding effortlessly whereas the more extrovert Alleluja Op.112, written in 1940 to mark the inauguration of the new organ in the I.N.R. (Belgian Radio)’s concert hall, is a short, modally inflected work, quite characteristic of Jongen in his outdoor mood.

The American composer Horatio Parker wrote many choral and organ music, but may be best remembered as Charles Ives’ teacher. Apparently Ives did not think too highly of him, nor did contemporary critics. Parker, who studied with Rheinberger in Munich and who – incidentally – played the organ part at the first performance of Rheinberger’s First Organ Concerto, is a very traditional composer whose music bears many Germanic influences. His Organ Concerto in E flat minor Op.55 was completed in 1902, i.e. twenty years after Widor’s above-mentioned symphony, and sounds as if it had been written ten years before Widor’s piece. The opening movement is fairly impressive but soon outstays its welcome. The second movement Andante is a romantic, nostalgic reverie in which the first violin and first horn have almost concertante parts. The following Scherzo is, to me at least, the weakest of the concerto whereas the concluding Allegro moderato reverts to the sonorous exultant mood of the opening movement. Parker’s Organ Concerto is no great masterpiece; it is too uneventful, a bit eclectic and at times bombastic, but it is still worth the occasional hearing.

These performers have already put us in their debt for their other recordings of fine, generally little-known, works for organ and orchestra. They play this unfamiliar music with conviction and affection, and the present release is again most welcome for Widor’s major piece and Jongen’s rarities, whereas Parker’s concerto may be more of a curiosity. The recorded sound is very fine. Full marks to all concerned.
Hubert Culot


RADIO TÉLÉVISION BELGE DE LA COMMUNAUTÉ FRANÇAISE

Centre de Production de Liège

Ces deux CDs du label GUILD sont véritablement enthousiasmants, et cela pour plusieurs raisons. D’abord la prise de son est exceptionnelle de naturel et de grandeur : en effet l’orgue d’église ne s’épanouit que s’il est conçu en fonction du bâtiment où il se trouve, et dans ce cas, l’instrument est le haut-parleur, et l’église qui l’entoure constitue le baffle qui le fait rayonner. Pourtant bien des ingénieurs du son réalisent des captations dont les micros sont trop proches de l’orgue, négligeant ainsi l’acoustique de l’église et le chatoiement résultant du roi des instruments. Ici, GUILD a œuvré de manière parfaite et intelligente, et le résultat est grandiose : l’orgue Klais d’Ingolstadt (1977) resplendit dans toute sa plénitude, soutenu par un orchestre qui ne force jamais le ton, participant ainsi d’autant plus à l’aspect naturel de cette splendide réalisation à laquelle il convient bien entendu d’associer Franz Hauk et Alfredo Ibarra.

Une autre raison de se réjouir est que la présente réalisation constitue la première publication, répartie sur deux disques, de la totalité des pièces pour orgue et orchestre de notre compositeur belge Joseph Jongen (1873 – 1953) , à savoir la ” Symphonie concertante ” op.81, l’” Hymne ” op.78 et l’” Alléluia ” op.112, ces deux derniers étant des premières au disque. À l’écoute de la musique de Jongen, on a constamment l’impression d’un art infaillible et il est piquant qu’un critique lui ait reproché un jour de ” ne jamais rien rater ” ! Ce qui frappe dans ces versions Hauk – Ibarra, en plus de leur grandiose magnificence, c’est leur chaleur et plus encore leur délicate poésie, surtout si l’on compare cette version de la ” Symphonie concertante ” avec celles de Virgil Fox (EMI), Michael Murray (TELARC), ou Jean Guillou (DORIAN), poésie qui n’exclut d’ailleurs pas une noble vigueur. Une seule petite bizarrerie étonnante : un trait d’orchestre est en partie escamoté dans le premier mouvement de la ” concertante ” (track 1, à 3 min 49 sec).
Michel TIBBAUT , ir


Organists’ Review – February 2001

For general comment, readers should turn to our last issue (200/4, November).

With this new recording the GUILD/ Ingolstadt team enhance still further their growing reputation

In 1882 Widor was commissioned by Philharmonic Societuy, on the recommandation of the future Edward VII, to compose an Organ Concerto to mark the tenth anniversary of the Father Willis organ in the Royal Albert Hall. Rather disappointingly Widor chose to orchestrate three movements from two of his existing organ Symphonies rather than create anything new. However, skilful Orchestrator that he was, a wand was waved over two movements from Symphonie VI and one from the Symphonie II and this splendidly vivid concerto metamorphosed. Jongen is well known for his three colourful and rather impressionistic work for orchestra and organ: Although Symphonie concertante is the best known, Alleluia and Hymne are just as fine, dating from 1940 and 1924 respectively.

Horatio Parker (1863 – 1919), the profliic American composer is usually described as being responsible for bringing to the USA the Germanic style of his teacher Joseph Rheinberger, with a fondness for counterpoint, fugues and that particularly German brand of chromaticism. In fact his stirring nineteen-minute E flat minor concerto, which dates from 1902 shows evidence of a much wider band of influences. Perhaps his visit to England in that year to have an honorary Cambridge Doctorate conferred upun him brought him into direct contact with the music of Elgar – both men being at their creative heights at the time. For the opening allegro moderato is awash with Elgarian touches, as Marc Rochester points out in his perceptive programme notes. As he says: ‘the German romantics hover over the beautiful second movement whilst the delicately pattering third is clearly from the same stable as the scherzos of Luis Vierne. The finale , beginning and ending in a gloriously Wagnerian vein includes and energetic Fugue and a stirring pedal cadenza’

The fine piece deserves a re-introduction to the concert platform; hopefully through the quite uplifting recording, repleter with glorious organ and orchestras tone once again cunningly capturing the vast Ingolstadt acoustic. Parker’s masterpiece will find a fresh audience.
Paul Hale


American Record Guide July/August 00  Page 210/211

This fascinating collection of little-known pieces for organ and orchestra was recorded in Liebfrauenmünster Ingolstadt in 1998, using the 4 – 100+ Klais organ. The Widor work was commissioned to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Villis Organ in Prince Albert Hall. Insteda of writing something new, Widor arranged two movements from his Symphony 6 and a slow, middle movement from Symphony 2. While this might strike some as an easy way out, the result is quite satisfactory. The opening Allegro manages to maintain a nice balance between organ and orchestra with sections for each to shine. The slow movement is very pleasant, but the organ is mostly occupied with quiet background commentary.

Jongen’s 1940 work to inaugurate a new organ in Belgium will immediately remind listeners of passages from his much better known Symphonie concertante. A short work (under 6 minutes), it has a strong, romantic flavour, with heroic brass and soaring strings. The same can be said of the longer and better crafted Hymne from 1924. Characteristic Jongen harmonies prevail, and one can revel in the haunting middle section, where slow-moving organ chords accompany a lovely string theme. If you enjoy the Symphonie concertante, you’ll love this piece.

The Parker concerto continues this romantic flavour, and if I and III are a bit disapointing, surely they are balanced by the stunning Andente. The orchestral writing is particularly noteworthy. Parker had a good sense of what works for each instrumental family. Too bad it was received with sugh indifference bz the critics. If you are unfamiliar with Parker’s compositions beyond his best-known Hora Navissima, this piece will surprise you.

Good performances all around. Unless there was some sneaky enhancement of the acoustics, the reverberation is splendid. It makes these pieces even grander than they are.
Metz


INTERNATIONAL RECORD REVIEW – MAY 2000

Widor’s Op. 42 Organ Symphony is, as the opus number suggests, a reworking of his solo Organ Symphony No. 6; to the outer movements of the latter are added the slow movement from Organ Symphony No. 2. The orchestral version was assembled (‘composed’ is too strong a term) in 1882 in response to a commission from the Philharmonic Society to mark the tenth anniversary of the Albert Hall’s Willis organ. In essence, all Widor has done is add an orchestral accompaniment to the solo organ part, and the result (with its excessive reliance on heavy brass) is impressively grand, but adds nothing in musical content to the already symphonically scaled solo piece.

Marc Rochester’s useful booklet notes give a hostage to fortune by admitting that Horatio Parker’s Organ Concerto was badly received at its early performances in America in 1902-3. Rheinberger pupil Parker’s historical reputation has been greatly harmed by Charles lves’ acid opinion of him, but this concerto is far from worthless. In fact, as organ concertos go it is quite well constructed, and the balance of musical material between soloist and orchestra is handled a great deal better than is often the case with this intractable combination. All that was really required from the composer was a bolder hand and more distinctive thematic material.

Between the two main works come two opulent pieces by Joseph Jongen, a festal Alleluia and a Debussy-influenced Hymne, appealing and well-crafted works. Throughout, the recording balances organ and orchestra well (the soloist is never drowned), but the huge reverberation leaves most of the actual textural details to the imagination. Alfredo Ibarra is much more successful in generating rhythmic drive than on the previous disc, recorded two years earlier. The lngolstadt Philharmonic may be second-leaguers, but only the quieter sections really show them up this time round: Widor’s numerous orchestral fortissimos sound well enough.
Francis Knights