Reviews

GMCD 7340 – Carillon de Westminster – Organ Works

Ursina Caflisch – The Organ of Neumünster Zürich

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Essex Chronicle December 2010

Zurich provides the venue for organist Ursina Caflish, whose recital in Neumunster last year is released, on Guild Music.
It’s a well-balanced affair with music spanning three centuries and much of it unfamiliar although composer such as Back, Rheinberg, and Vierne will be known to organists and those who enjoy the majesty of the King of Instruments.
The Organ was built in 1872, renovated in 1926 and relocated in 1995. The range of its stops can be heard by listening to two tracks – a gentle prelude by Bach from the Leipzig Chorales, and Louis Vierne’s celebrated impression of Big Ben in the Carillon de Westminster.

International Record Review January 2011

Ursina Caflisch presents an eclectic programme that we are informed `has been chosen to demonstrate the range of the fine three-manual, 52-stop organ’ of Neumünster, Zurich. The instrument was built in 1872, subsequently undergoing renovation in 1926 before being moved from Zurich’s Old Town Hall to Neumünster, Zurich in 1995 at the initiation of Caflisch. It is therefore appropriate that, with the exception of two works by the Baroque composers Michael Corrette and J. S. Bach, the majority of the pieces performed here are by composers who flourished in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, all of either French or German provenance.
Although Louis Vierne’s `Carillon de Westminster’ is chosen as the title-piece of the disc, ostensibly because of the picturesque title and its enduring popularity, the two most substantial works in the programme are those by Josef Gabriel Rheinberger and Samuel Rousseau. Rheinbergcr’s Sonata No. 4 in A minor consists of three movements, the first of which is `notable for the combination of contrapuntal and toccata styles as the movement progresses’, as well as the powerful, homophonic presentation of the `Magnificat’ chorale melody. Caflisch plays with an impressive clarity, achieved by the extensive use of mutation stops and a vibrant, detached touch. In contrast, the central `Intermezzo’ movement is imbued with a beautiful sense of melodic line and poise. However, the return to the use of mutation stops in the `Fuga cromatica’ that follows denies the richness of sound that the music surely requires.
Rousseau studied the organ with César Franck in Paris and the great composer’s melodic influence is apparent in the younger man’s most well-known work, Fantaisie. This large-scale piece is cast as a passacaglia and Rousseau has exploited the possibility for dramatic juxtaposition of mood and texture throughout Caflisch seizes on this variety to produce a performance that demonstrates the colourful range of the instrument through the imaginative use of different sound combinations. Additionally, she has excellent command of the architecture of the entire piece, as the tempos chosen ensure that the listener remains rapt, especially during the gradual build-up through the concluding minutes.
Vierne’s oft-recorded `Carillon de Westminster’ is played at a suitably steady tempo, enabling Caflisch to create welcome definition through the final climax. The opening poise is unfortunately spoilt by rather insensitive use of the swell box, causing the music to lurch somewhat. However, the overall effect of this staple of the organ repertoire is magnificent.
J. S. Bach set the Lutheran choral melody Nun komm der Heiden Heiland numerous times in various forms, though perhaps none is as fine as the version played here. Caflisch performs the prelude with an admirable sense of elegance and refinement, especially in the execution of the highly ornamented right-hand solo. A tempo has been selected that well reflects the gravity of Bach’s music, while ensuring that the forward momentum, implied by the relentless walking bass line, is achieved effectively. One minor criticism of Caflisch’s rendition has to do with the choice of registration, which at times feels rather lightweight, especially in the left-hand and pedal accompaniment where the contrapuntal lines might benefit from being brought out with greater distinction.
The remaining pieces in the programme are all well played; notable common features are the thoughtful and appropriate use of a great variety of colourful registrations as well as a consistent sense of poise and spaciousness in the playing. The sound quality is impressive. In particular, the producer and engineer, Michael Ponder, has achieved an excellent balance between capturing the acoustic of the building while easily enabling the listener to appreciate the subtlety of the instrument.
Organ enthusiasts will be disappointed to find that, beyond a few brief comments, there is no detailed history of the organ at Neumünster in the accompanying notes. Rather more surprising is the absence of a specification for the 52-stop instrument, especially given that this particular organ apparently inspired the programme. However, Robert Matthew-Walker’s notes, written in German and English, are otherwise engaging and informative and are an appropriate accompaniment to a highly successful release.
David Newsholme

Classical Music Sentinel September 2010

A fine new recording of known and unknown organ works all performed with insight by organist Ursina Caflisch, who completed her studies as a pupil of Piet Kee, and who is also an active driving force behind the musical life of Switzerland. The programme, according to the booklet notes, was selected to demonstrate the qualities of this 52-stop instrument, built in 1872 and renovated in 1926. It was first installed in Zürich’s Old Town Hall, but eventually dismantled and re-built in 1995, where it now resides, in the Neumünster Zürich. It is not a bright, clear and detailed instrument that would easily define all the finer details of a Bach fugue for example, but it is right at home here with the works recorded on this new Guild CD. Unfortunately, the booklet does not contain a list of the organ’s stops.

The music starts with a proud Preludio Grand Jeu by Michel Corrette, taken from his ‘First Organ Book’ of 1737. A piece that well demonstrates this organ’s predominant reed and trumpet stops. A well balanced and perfectly voiced reading of Nun komm der Heiden Heiland by Johann Sebastian Bach is next on the menu. Pieces by better known organist/composers like Josef Gabriel Rheinberger and Théodore Dubois again bring out the instrument’s rich orchestral palette, and demonstrate the versatility Caflisch brings to the table. What will be of more interest to all the dedicated organ music collectors out there, are the few rarely if ever recorded works by more obscure composers like Ernst Friedrich Richter (1808-1879), Samuel Rousseau (1853-1904) and Carl Türcke (1866-?). All works that fit this organ’s sound very well, and compare well to the more famous names around them. And, of course, the showpiece on this recording is the famous Carillon de Westminster by Louis Vierne, and organist of great stature. It’s an organ piece that demands great concentration from the player, with its constant oscillating figures in the right hand, the main chimes motif and momentum in the left hand, and the big bell effects in the pedals. Although Ursina Caflisch tends to overdo the swell pedal effects here and there during the piece, she does bring out the work’s constant sense of momentum and steady crescendo, and ends on a commanding note, with the organ’s full power on display.

A recording tailor made for collectors and completists, be it for choice of composers, works, or even instrument. A well balanced programme made-to-measure for this 19th century inspired organ, well captured on this, Guild’s second recording with organist Ursina Caflisch.
Jean-Yves Duperron