Reviews

GMCD 7337 – Organ Works by Carl Rütti

Carl Rütti – Organ

To the CD in our Shop


The Organ, Autumn 2009

The distinguished Swiss composer and organist Carl Rütti celebrated his 60th birthday earlier this year and we carried an appreciation of his organ music in the issue for August-October (No 349). Not having been closely familiar with Rütti’s work before then, the opportunity afforded by the occasion of his birthday to study his organ music in depth enabled me to appreciate far more fully the significance of his contributions to the modern repertoire. If much of Rütti’s music has an implied religious background for its inspiration, his music is not invariably traditional, although clearly he cannot avoid – nor, it seems, would he want to – the established musical rivers from which he draws his expressive language. This is quite clear from an initial hearing of his organ music, but perhaps more so in the case of his Requiem, a large-scale setting for soloists, organ, double chorus and orchestra which dates from as recently as 2007. Both of these brand-new recordings are particularly fine. Naturally, the disc of his complete organ music has the added attraction of the composer himself playing throughout, so we accept that the performances are particularly authentic. None the less, the playing on this disc demonstrates quite clearly the composer’s ability as an organist himself. In this regard, certain passages in Tongues of Fire would stretch any organist’s technique, but the composer seems entirely at home in them and in their realisation. The recording quality is very good, if a little close for some ears, but it enables details to be made much clearer than would otherwise be the case. Although certain passages in Rütti’s organ music may appear difficult to comprehend on paper, I have found it an enlightening experience to follow the composer’s playing with the music before me, for the clarity he brings to even the most fully-scored pages is admirable. This is an outstanding record which should be studied by all interested in modern organ music which does not pose almost insoluble problems for listeners. With regard to the disc of Rütti’s Requiem, it is equally heartening to see a work that is as recent as this – less than eighteen months old at the time the recording was made – being made available on disc by a company with world-wide distribution. The problem that besets all composers who undertake to write a Requiem is that the text is unalterable: it has remained unchanged since Mozart’s day, a text set not only by him but by Bruckner, Verdi, Faure, von Suppe, Britten, Andrew Lloyd Webber and many others. Thus it is that the character of each ‘movement’, as it were, is set at the beginning – the Kyrie is supplicatory, the final In Paradisum is consolatory, and so on – therefore, within a few bars, the composer has to capture the appropriate mood: he has no choice in the matter, and when confronted by the great masterpieces which have preceded his setting, he should be aware of the great task he has set himself. It would appear that Rütti, if at first – by his own admission – somewhat daunted by the invitation from The Bach Choir to compose the work in 2005, soon came to be fired by the challenge, to which he could respond with nothing other than his own musical language and creative abilities.
The result is an immediately impressive work; throughout infused with a human sense of impermanence – by which is meant the inward contemplation of death itself – and not by either a `fire-and-brimstone’ warning of travelling to the hereafter or a fruitless fistshaking challenge to fate. In this regard – and not to give the wrong impression – Rütti’s Requiem is selective, not comprehensive, from the Latin text of the Missa pro defunctis, and in his choices the composer has given himself the opportunity to create a work infused with a calm beatific acceptance of the inevitable, a score of richly expressive quality that does not attempt to storm the heavens. Consequently, Rütti’s Requiem has more in common with Faure’s setting than with Verdi’s – there is no Dies Irae here – but is wider in its implications, more personal than the Frenchman’s, in that Rütti begins and ends his work with a solo unaccompanied soprano voice. Despite calling for quite large forces, Rütti treats them with remarkable restraint.
On this world premiere recording, Olivia Robinson is an impressive soprano soloist, as is Edward Price in the Offertorium. The Bach Choir has clearly taken to this important new work, and their singing throughout is excellent. Jane Watts is the excellent organist, and David Hill controls his forces with a masterly hand. The recording quality – made at St John’s, Smith Square in January and February 2009 – is first-class. A complete text and translation is included in the booklet, which has very good notes by Katharine Richman.
Both of these fine discs are therefore very strongly recommended.
Robert Matthew-Walker

International Record Review March 2010

Some readers may have encountered the music of the Swiss composer Carl Rütti at the Proms in 1999, or on BBC Radio 3, where the BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus have performed some of his choral works in recent years. His Requiem, recorded by Naxos, was reviewed in the January issue. In addition to being a prolific composer, he also has a busy career as a solo pianist and an organist. This CD, recorded on the magnificent organ of the Hofkirche in Lucerne, brings together his five major works for organ. They all have religious connotations and range from his earliest, Annunciation, composed in the mid – 1970s, to Vita, which dates from 2003. The recording is clear and bright and captures the full grandeur of the instrument.
The sound-world that Rütti inhabits is close to that of Messiaen, though he is not afraid to end a piece on a major chord. His writing is virtuosic and uninhibited, since he is clearly a fine performer. Rütti says on the CD cover that he recognizes a higher order in his organ works, outlining their religious connections and connotations. Jacob’s Ladder (2001) is a five-movement suite which takes its inspiration from Jacob’s visionary dream in which he saw a ladder between heaven and earth, with angels ascending and descending. Musically, though, much of the material is derived from a piece in a seventeenth-century Swiss organ book Each movement is a different impression of Jacob’s story, as depicted by their titles: `The Dream’, `Soaring’, `Twittering’, `Circling’, `The Windmill Sail’. This last movement is suggested by the notion that the ladder is the sail of a windmill forever turning, The result produces music of great animation, virtuosity and excitement.
Annunciation is Rütti’s earliest work for organ and was intended as a birthday present for his wife. Its first two movements, `The Angel’ and `The Girl’, were written together. `The Angel’ begins with bird-song and the bird becomes the Angel Gabriel visiting Mary. In the second movement, Mare’s fears become her joy as she sings her first Magnificat. The third movement, `Veni Creator Spiritus’, was delayed until 1981. The plainsong melody can be heard on the pedals underneath a lively dance. Tabor deals with the Transfiguration of Christ and the fulfilment of the predictions made by the prophets. It’s a three-movement work, composed in the early 1990s, making extensive use of plainsong melodies. The first movement, `Mountain of Transfiguration’, is a gradual crescendo based on the Lumen Christi plainsong hymn for Easter night. `The Cloud’ is a slow movement based on the verse from St Mark: `… and a voice came out of the cloud, saying: This is my beloved son’. The final movement, `The Lark’, was inspired by the bird singing outside the composer’s window, the song seeming to ascend up to heaven. Tongues of Fire was commissioned in 1998 by the church in Zug, where Ratty lives. It is a single movement, based on the plainsong Veni Sancte Spiritus, which swirls around as in a storm. At the centre is a moment of stillness with the call of the dove, before the agitated music returns. The most recent work is Vita, which is a five-movement suite based on scenes from the life of the Irish Saint Fridolin, who settled in Switzerland. Again, the music is striking for its use of modern harmony and for the sonoritics that Rütti brings out of the organ.
I cannot think of a series of compositions for organ that have impressed me so much since I first encountered Messiaen some 50 years ago. Do buy this disc and listen for yourself.
Peter Marchbank

Musik & Theater Oct. – Nov. 2010

Geistlicher Hintergrund
Die künstlerische Wahlheimat des Schweizer Komponisten Carl Rütti ist England. Seine geistlichen Werke, besonders jene für Chor, erfreuen sich einer beachtlichen Präsenz im englischen Musikleben und werden von den besten Ensembles aufgeführt, namentlich von den BBC Singers. So erstaunt es nicht, dass seine Orgelwerke beim englischen Label Guild erscheinen. Bei der Instrumentenwahl bleibt Rütti, der hier sein eigener Interpret ist, allerdings der Schweiz treu. Mit der Orgel der Luzerner Hofkirche hat er sich eines der von der Wirkungsgeschichte bedeutsamsten Instrumente der Schweiz ausgesucht, das auch heute noch zu den repräsentativsten des Landes gehört. Rütti spielt die Gesamtheit seines Orgelschaffens ein, das heute fünf Werke bzw. Zyklen umfasst. Alle haben sie einen programmatischen geistlichen Hintergrund, etwa das Leben des Heiligen Fridolin, die Verkündigung oder die Jakobsleiter. Auf der stilistischen Ebene will Rütti seine Schulung an den französischen Meistern des 20. Jahrhunderts nicht verleugnen. Trotz einiger greifbarer Reminiszenzen verschmelzen die Einflüsse zu etwas Neuem, dem es nicht an Individualität mangelt. Vor allem bestechen – in der Komposition wie bei der Interpretation – der mitreissende Gestus der virtuosen Partien und die Poesie der langsamen Sätze.
Stephan Thomas

Fanfare Thursday May 13 2010

In the last issue, I raved about the superb Naxos release of Swiss composer Carl Rütti’s (b. 1949) Requiem. Though known primarily for his choral works, Rütti is an accomplished organist and has composed a number of substantial pieces for the instrument. On this new disc, he performs a sampling of these organ solos, dating from 1975 to 2003. (All of the pieces and movements are titled in both German and English. I have used the English titles in this review, since Fanfare is an American publication.)
The works included on this CD are all programmatically religious in conception, yet varied in character, ranging from the wild and extroverted Pentecost-toccata Tongues of Fire (1998) to the beautifully simple Die Wolke (“The Cloud”) from Tabor (1992–93). The suite Jacob’s Ladder (2001) is based upon another work: an anonymous fantasy (c. 1682) found in an old Swiss organ volume that had recently been discovered. Rütti uses the source material as a point of departure for his own ambitious reflections on the Jacob’s ladder imagery. The final movement brings in another reference: that of a beautiful, fluid “windmill” interpretation of the ladder by the Swiss poet Silja Walter.
The most ambitious work on the disc is Vita (2003), a five-movement suite inspired by the life of Saint Fridolin of Säckingen (sixth century). The movements depict anecdotes from Fridolin’s life and are prefaced by narrative excerpts from his biography. The only stand-alone single movement on the disc is Tongues of Fire , a dramatic evocation of Pentecost that incorporates the song of the blackbird as well as traditional plainchant. The blackbird is Rütti’s personal symbol and seems to represent rebirth and the creative spirit. (A blackbird’s song on tape also appears in the final movement of the Requiem.)
As with his Requiem, Rütti is working in a very common genre (in this case, religious-themed organ suites), yet he constantly subverts typical expectations in musically compelling ways. Although every moment of these pieces is entirely accessible, there is never anything remotely hackneyed or clichéd. Rütti’s craft and creativity are consistently stunning.
The composer performs these pieces excellently on the characterful organ of Hofkriche St. Leodegar (Collegiate Church) in Lucerne, Switzerland. The organ was first built during a post-fire reconstruction of the church in the late 17th century. After many piecemeal renovations over the years, major restoration was undertaken in the late 20th century. The organ is beautifully recorded with close detail (the clarity of articulation is very noticeable) and serves Rütti’s music superbly. Guild’s booklet is a true model—containing the full details for each piece, an excellent analytical essay about the music by Robert Matthew-Walker, biographies, and full specifications for the organ. If you haven’t heard Rütti’s music yet, run and buy the Naxos Requiem disc first—but you’d hardly go wrong with this excellent album. These are pieces that deserve to be in the repertoire of every organist. Carson Cooman
Fanfare Thursday May 13 2010
In the last issue, I raved about the superb Naxos release of Swiss composer Carl Rütti’s (b. 1949) Requiem. Though known primarily for his choral works, Rütti is an accomplished organist and has composed a number of substantial pieces for the instrument. On this new disc, he performs a sampling of these organ solos, dating from 1975 to 2003. (All of the pieces and movements are titled in both German and English. I have used the English titles in this review, since Fanfare is an American publication.)
The works included on this CD are all programmatically religious in conception, yet varied in character, ranging from the wild and extroverted Pentecost-toccata Tongues of Fire (1998) to the beautifully simple Die Wolke (“The Cloud”) from Tabor (1992–93). The suite Jacob’s Ladder (2001) is based upon another work: an anonymous fantasy (c. 1682) found in an old Swiss organ volume that had recently been discovered. Rütti uses the source material as a point of departure for his own ambitious reflections on the Jacob’s ladder imagery. The final movement brings in another reference: that of a beautiful, fluid “windmill” interpretation of the ladder by the Swiss poet Silja Walter.
The most ambitious work on the disc is Vita (2003), a five-movement suite inspired by the life of Saint Fridolin of Säckingen (sixth century). The movements depict anecdotes from Fridolin’s life and are prefaced by narrative excerpts from his biography. The only stand-alone single movement on the disc is Tongues of Fire , a dramatic evocation of Pentecost that incorporates the song of the blackbird as well as traditional plainchant. The blackbird is Rütti’s personal symbol and seems to represent rebirth and the creative spirit. (A blackbird’s song on tape also appears in the final movement of the Requiem.)
As with his Requiem, Rütti is working in a very common genre (in this case, religious-themed organ suites), yet he constantly subverts typical expectations in musically compelling ways. Although every moment of these pieces is entirely accessible, there is never anything remotely hackneyed or clichéd. Rütti’s craft and creativity are consistently stunning.
The composer performs these pieces excellently on the characterful organ of Hofkriche St. Leodegar (Collegiate Church) in Lucerne, Switzerland. The organ was first built during a post-fire reconstruction of the church in the late 17th century. After many piecemeal renovations over the years, major restoration was undertaken in the late 20th century. The organ is beautifully recorded with close detail (the clarity of articulation is very noticeable) and serves Rütti’s music superbly. Guild’s booklet is a true model—containing the full details for each piece, an excellent analytical essay about the music by Robert Matthew-Walker, biographies, and full specifications for the organ. If you haven’t heard Rütti’s music yet, run and buy the Naxos Requiem disc first—but you’d hardly go wrong with this excellent album. These are pieces that deserve to be in the repertoire of every organist.
Carson Cooman

GMCD 7337 International Record Review March 2010

Annunciation. Jacob’s Ladder. Tabor. Tongues of Fire. Vita. Carl Rütti (organ).

Guild GMCD 7337 (full price, 1 hour 12 minutes). Played on the organ of the Hofkirche, Lucerne. Website www.guildmusic.com Producer / Engineer Michael Ponder. Dates June 10th-12th, 2009.

Some readers may have encountered the music of the Swiss composer Carl Rütti at the Proms in 1999, or on BBC Radio 3, where the BBC Singers and BBC Symphony Chorus have performed some of his choral works in recent years. His Requiem, recorded by Naxos, was reviewed in the January issue. In addition to being a prolific composer, he also has a busy career as a solo pianist and an organist. This CD, recorded on the magnificent organ of the Hofkirche in Lucerne, brings together his five major works for organ. They all have religious connotations and range from his earliest, Annunciation, composed in the mid – 1970s, to Vita, which dates from 2003. The recording is clear and bright and captures the full grandeur of the instrument.

The sound-world that Rütti inhabits is close to that of Messiaen, though he is not afraid to end a piece on a major chord. His writing is

virtuosic and uninhibited, since he is clearly

a fine performer. Rütti says on the CD cover that he recognizes a higher order in his organ works, outlining their religious connections and connotations. Jacob’s Ladder (2001) is a five-movement suite which takes its inspiration from Jacob’s visionary dream

in which he saw a ladder between heaven and earth, with angels ascending and descending. Musically, though, much of the material is derived from a piece in a seventeenth-century Swiss organ book Each movement is a different impression of Jacob’s story, as depicted by their titles: `The Dream’, `Soaring’, `Twittering’, `Circling’, `The Windmill Sail’. This last movement is suggested by the notion that the ladder is the sail of a windmill forever turning, The result produces music of great animation, virtuosity and excitement.

Annunciation is Rütti’s earliest work for

organ and was intended as a birthday present for his wife. Its first two movements, `The Angel’ and `The Girl’, were written together. `The Angel’ begins with bird-song and the bird becomes the Angel Gabriel visiting Mary. In the second movement, Mare’s fears become her joy as she sings her first Magnificat. The third movement, `Veni Creator Spiritus’, was delayed until 1981. The plainsong melody can be heard on the pedals underneath a lively dance. Tabor deals with the Transfiguration of Christ and the fulfilment of the predictions made by the prophets. It’s a three-movement work, composed in the early 1990s, making extensive use of plainsong melodies. The first movement, `Mountain of Transfiguration’, is a gradual crescendo based on the Lumen Christi plainsong hymn for Easter night. `The Cloud’ is a slow movement based on the verse from St Mark: `… and a voice came out of the cloud, saying: This is my beloved son’. The final movement, `The Lark’, was inspired by the bird singing outside the composer’s window, the song seeming to ascend up to heaven. Tongues of Fire was commissioned in 1998 by the church in Zug, where Ratty lives. It is a single movement, based on the plainsong Veni Sancte Spiritus, which swirls around as in a storm. At the centre is a moment of stillness with the call of the dove, before the agitated music returns. The most recent work is Vita, which is a five-movement suite based on scenes from the life of the Irish Saint Fridolin, who settled in Switzerland. Again, the music is striking for its use of modern harmony and for the sonoritics that Rütti brings out of the organ. I cannot think of a series of compositions for organ that have impressed me so much since I first encountered Messiaen some 50 years ago. Do buy this disc and listen for yourself. Peter Marchbank