GMCD 7386 – Tongues of Fire – Rütti, Arensky, Poulenc

Martin Heini (organ), Mario Schubiger (percussion), The State Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra of Novosibirsk, Rainer Held (conductor)

To the CD in our Shop


American Record Guide – May/June 2013

When I first saw the cover of this, I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Then I listened to it and found that it contains one of my favourite things: exciting, powerful music that’s exceptionally well played. It turned out to be one of my favorites in this batch of discs.
The orchestra comes from Russia, but the recording was made in Switzerland last year at St Catherine’s Church in Horw, which houses the fairly new (1996) organ Mr Heini plays. The recorded sound is spectacular and certainly helps make this production so enjoyable. One oddity is that while the short Arensky piece gets a separate track for each variation, the entire Poulenc work is on one unbroken 24-minute track. While it may not be broken into separate movements, it’s still handy to be able to access one’s favorite sections directly.
Carl Rutti, born in 1949, is a Swiss organist and composer who also writes a good deal of choral music. The organ concerto presented here is actually his second. It opens up with a driving, urgent Allegro and some positively wild solo work for the organ—all very exciting and cogent. The Adagio starts out restful but returns briefly to the agitation of I before settling back to a quiet ending. III is a brief Scherzo, and IV is a theme-and-variations on a carol tune that builds to a satisfying climax, with plenty of percussion and organ. This is impressive, a newly written piece of music that audiences really will enjoy. As you’ve probably guessed, this is its very first recording. Tongues of Fire is a work for solo organ that lives up to its name, alternating between flickering mischievousness, thunderous declamation, and quiet introspection in its brief seven minutes.
The Arensky does get a sweet, nostalgic, lyrical performance that’s almost as expressive as the classic Barbirolli recording. Although at first glance it may seem out of place on the program, it gives the orchestra a chance to shine, and after the powerful Rutti pieces, it cleanses the listener’s aural “palate” before diving into the Poulenc.
The Poulenc concerto should be performed more often than it is, and the playing here both from the soloist and the orchestra is first rate. My only slight quibble—very slight—is that I’d like to hear a bit more urgency in the closing Allegro molto agitato section.

Not Since Poulenc: A Wonderful New Organ Concerto by Carl Rütti February 3, 2013

By Nicholas A. Deutsch – Amazon Verified Purchase
When did a new work of Western “classical” music last give you the direct, instant pleasure and satisfaction that a new book or movie might? And on repeat hearings not only hold up but reveal new facets and depths? That’s been my experience with Carl Rütti’s terrific Concerto for Organ, Strings & Percussion (2011). Rhythmically vital, not to say catchy, harmonically easy to grasp yet full of subtleties, melodically memorable, and with a virtuosic solo part – Rütti is of course a fine organist himself – that never descends into hollow “showing off”: this is a joy to listen to from start to finish (which is exactly what I’ve now done countless times).
Don’t take my word for it: go to YouTube, search for “carl rutti allegro” and you’ll find a video of the first movement (with links to the other three) performed by the same excellent forces as on this CD, including the work’s dedicatees, organist Martin Heini and conductor Rainer Held.
The rest of the disc is just as rewarding. Heini gives a superb performance of Rütti’s brief but powerful Feuerzungen (Tongues of Fire) for organ solo, and one of the best of Poulenc’s Organ Concerto I know of. Indeed, I’ve rarely heard the Poulenc register as such an integrated, consistently serious piece, much to the credit of Held and his players as well. My only reservation (a minor one) is that it might have been good to have a few more strings – I count a total of 26 players in the booklet photo.
Those youngish musicians of the State Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra of Novosibirsk get their moment in the spotlight with Arensky’s Variations on a theme by Tchaikovsky, where they play with warmth and refinement. The quiet, melancholy charms of the Arensky provide a welcome resting place between the more high-powered works on either side.
A wonderful CD, highly recommended.

Musik & Theater – Februar 2013

Sprachpuristen werden vielleicht die Augenbrauen hochziehen, wenn ein akustisches Phänomen wie diese CD als «spectacular» bezeichnet wird. Nicht von der Hand zu weisen ist indessen, dass Carl Rüttis Kompositionen visuelle Assoziationen wie «Feuerwerk» nach sich ziehen können. Rütti hat ein ausgesprochenes Flair für einen attraktiven Tonsatz. Auf der Basis der Tonsprachen des 20. Jahrhunderts versteht er es, seiner Musik einen bezwingenden Gestus zu verleihen, welcher sie auf besondere Weise zugänglich macht. Besondere Wertschätzung wird ihr im angelsächsischen Raum entgegengebracht, doch fehlt es auch in Rüttis Schweizer Heimat keineswegs an Anwälten für seine Sache. Der Organist Martin Heini – in seiner Generation einer der besten des Fachs – demonstriert, dass ein Orgelkonzert kein Orchesterstück mit sakraler Einfärbung zu sein braucht, sondern dem Solisten äusserst weltliche Virtuosität abverlangen kann. Mit diesem Rüstzeug darf es Heini auch wagen, das Solostück «Feuerzungen» aufzunehmen, obwohl es vor nicht allzu langer Zeit vom Komponisten selber gültig eingespielt worden ist. Beste Arbeit leistet für diese CD auch das vom Schweizer Rainer Held geleitete Orchester aus Nowosibirsk.
Stephan Thomas

MusicWeb-International – February 2013

Firstly, let’s welcome the addition of an outstandingly exciting new organ concerto to the contemporary repertoire. And second, let’s salute the performers. It was written in 2011 by the Swiss-born composer Carl Rütti after having been approached by the soloist here, Martin Heini, for a concerto for organ, strings and percussion. A discussion followed, not least because the composer had just written a concerto for organ, though Heini wasn’t aware of the fact. With the triumvirate of composer, soloist and conductor Rainer Held in close conversation, the concerto took shape. The percussion, by the way, includes tom-toms, cymbals, temple blocks, snare drum, tambourine and triangle.
This premiere recording captures the concerto in terrific fidelity. If one was suspicious that this combination mirrored the Poulenc concerto, which has also been recorded in the disc, one can note further that Rütti’s work couldn’t be more different. It has an exciting drive and an energy that may recall Carmina Burana, motoric twentieth-century concerti grossi or film music. But it has plenty of reflective moments too, and a thoughtful slow movement in chaconne form that admits skittish Messiaen-like birdsong in repetitive patterns in music that grows increasingly dramatic. The Blackbird makes its appearance again in the scherzo, rejuvenated and alluring. The finale opens with a rather lovely carol, composed by Rütti, called A Patre unigenitus, and spins variations of captivating breadth and stylistic licence; some could be show tunes, segueing into bluesy twists before opening into a glorious, magnificent peal of exaltation before gently calming down. What a blockbuster!
The Poulenc Concerto is hard pressed to match this sonic spectacular. In its way it’s a staple of the twentieth-century organ concerto repertoire and thus new recordings are welcome. Heini and Held perform it with energetic drive, digging out its fluctuations, and emotive balancing acts, always a Poulenc speciality, with considerable discernment.
The remaining works are Rutti’s Tongues of Fire, a solo work for organ based on the chant Veni sancte spiritus. Once again birdsong is interlaced in vigorous and virtuosic fashion into the fabric of the music. There are little percussive interjections, and colourful washes, and moments too of jazzy syncopation.
Arensky’s Variations on a theme of Tchaikovsky is a very odd bedfellow in this company. It’s a gorgeous piece of music, though, and the State Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra of Novosibirsk does it pretty well, but it continues to sit oddly in the programme.
Never mind, the band deserves its outing after the fine accompanying work in the concertos, and full marks to Held for his contribution. The highlight here, though, is the Rütti concerto, a piece I’ve continued to replay several times with no let-up in enjoyment.
Jonathan Woolf
An outstandingly exciting new organ concerto joins the contemporary repertoire.

Gramophone – Critics Choice 2012 – reviews December 2012

It all comes together on ‘Tongues of Fire’ – an exciting new organ work alongside established ones, top-notch performances from Martin Heini, ravishing recorded sound and a beautifully produced boklet. It passed the ‘wow’ factor test with flying colours – I played it five times back-to-back straight off – and it still sends more shivers down the spine than my chiropractor likes to see. Marc Rochester
Heini and Held in Horw with concertos for organ
It is the sad fate of organ concertos to be performed once or twice by the organist for whom they were written on the organ for which they were conceived and then consigned to oblivion. Who, now, programmes those by Alun Hoddinott, Malcolm Williamson or Hendrik Andriessen? Some did make it on to record but soon disappeared from the pages of the catalogue, typical of these being Bossi’s Op 100, which appeared for a time an on obscure-label LP before being wiped from the public consciousness by the digital age. Such a fate must not be allowed to befall die Concertc for Organ, strings and percussion composed last year by the Swiss cornposer Cart Rütti.
If it does, this recording may well be to blame, for this is such an outstanding and breathtaking performance that many will feel the work can never sound so good again. Heini is a true virtuoso for whom Rütti’s exacting demands seem second nature, while the music seems such a perfect fit on the splendid 1996 Goll organ at Horw, near Lucerne, that it is difficult to imagine it working so well elsewhere, especially given such a tremendously vivid recorded sound. But Rütti’s Concerto is clearly a cut above the rest, not least, I would dare to suggest, the Poulenc with which it shares both orchestration and this disc.
Held drives the Poulenc along restlessly, relishing opportunities for melodrama and pathos; and, while this Siberian orchestra is not always at the cutting edge of precision in either tuning or ensemble, they make a warm and loving sound, nowhere more so than in a deeply affectionate account of the Arensky Variation on the famous Tchaikovsky Legend.
Left to his own devices, Heini exhibits great dramatic flair in Tongues of Fire, Rütti’s powerful six-and-a-half minute tour de force for organ solo. But, fascinating and worthwhile as it is, this, like everything else on the disc, is wholly eclipsed by a scintillating and truly stupendous performance of a new concerto which demands to be heard. Marc Rochester

Musik & Liturgie – November 2012

Von Feuerzungen bis zur Dessertlaune
Carl Rüttis (*1949) Orgelkonzert für Solo-Orgel, Streicher und Perkussion wurde von Martin Heini, Orgel, Mario Schubiger, Schlagzeug, und dem Kammerorchester der Philharmonie Novosibirsk unter dem Dirigenten Rainer Held in der Kirche St. Katharina, Horw, auf CD eingespielt (vgl. «Musik und Liturgie» 4//12, S.20 ff.).
Neben dem Orgelkonzert ist Rüttis Orgelwerk «Feuerzungen» zu hören. Martin Heini setzt die aus dem zweiten Kapitel der Apostelgeschichte bekannte Geschichte virtuos und mit überlegener Musikalität auf der ausgezeichnet klingenden Goll-Orgel von Horw in Musik um. Die brillanten, mit grossem Orgelklang realisierten Feuerzungen, die rufenden Vögel (die Amsel als Ergänzung und/oder Korrektiv zur Taube), die versteckte und offene Präsenz des Pfingsthymnus «Veni creator spiritus» ergreifen alle Zuhörenden und lassen erahnen, was Begeisterung sein kann.
Die Variationen über ein Thema aus Tschaikowskis bekannten Kinderliedern von Anton Arenski (1861-1906) bringen ein resignierendes, im besten Sinne des Wortes zu verstehendes, sentimentales Moment ins Programm der Einspielung. Arenski hat das Stück in ehrendem Andenken an den Erfinder der Melodie kurz nach Tschaikowskys Tod geschrieben. Das Orchester und sein Dirigent zeigen dabei, wie vertraut sie auch mit dieser Art von Musik umzugehen verstehen.
Den Abschluss bildet ein Klassiker. Francis Poulenc (1899-1963) hat das Konzert für Orgel, Streicher und Pauken in den Dreissigerjahren geschrieben. Stilistisch vielfältig, mit eingängigen Themen und Motiven und virtuosen Orgelpassagen hat das Konzert einen festen Platz im Raum, wo sich sakrale und profane Musik die Hand bzw. die Finger reichen. Beim Anhören der CD erhält man den Eindruck, dass der Organist das Konzert in einer Art Dessertlaune und mit meisterhafter Gestaltung zum Klingen bringt.
Herbert Ulrich

Classical CD Choice – 23. December 2012

This is unusual repertoire, the Poulenc Organ Concerto apart — and the fact that the Poulenc is not exactly under-recorded — might have made this a disc which could have escaped many people’s notice. But rave reviews have been forthcoming, and they have been justified – not least for the novelty here, Rütti’s splendid Concerto for Organ, Strings and Percussion, which (in its pawky individuality) is something of a find. What’s more, the Poulenc is given one of its most impressive readings. This is a CD worth seeking out.
Barry Forshaw

Choir and Organ – Autumn 2012

Of immediate interest here is the first recording of Carl Rütti’s gloriously dramatic Concerto for Organ (his second). Strings and Percussion, thrillingly played with combustible flair by Martin Heini – who also relishes treating Rütti’s title track like the virtuoso fireworks display it is – and conducted with no less incendiary imagination by Rainer Held, its two initiators.
Arensky’s lushly orchestrated op.35 Tchaikovsky Variations and Poulenc’s characterful timpani- and strings-accompanied organ concerto prove delectable bed fellows. Vivid recorded sound adds to the considerable pleasure.

Audiophile Audition – 25. September 2012

A worthwhile program of works for organ and orchestra, including the popular Poulenc Concerto.
Although the Poulenc Organ Concerto has multichannel SACD competition from Linn, Oehms and Ondine, this is a fine performance and the other three works on the disc are of prime interest. Swiss organist Heini and countryman conductor Held have assembled a fine program, the young musicians of Novosibirsk support them in excellent fashion, and the sonics are first-rate.
The Concerto is the second from Swiss composer Rütti, who is an expert organist himself. Organist Heini requested the concerto from him. The percussion he has added to the string orchestra consists of tom-toms, cymbals, temple blocks, snare drum, tambourine and triangle. Rutti, like Messiaen, is fascinating with bird song, and in his case especially with that of the blackbird. There is a toccata-like section in the first movement with the sound of birdsong. The very short third movement of the four is a “Blackbird Scherzino,” and the final movement uses a carol Rutti wrote for an Oxford Carols series, plus a recap of materials from the preceding movements.
Tongues of Fire for solo organ is based on the chant Veni sancte spiritus and uses both the songs of a dove and blackbird. The interesting seven-minute work ends with a most virtuosic passage. Arensky used a theme from Tchaikovsky’s Sixteen Children’s Songs for his work for organ and chamber orchestra. It also became the second movement of his second string quartet.
John Sunier – August 2012

Guild wirft sich einmal mehr für Carl Rütti in die Bresche. Mit Erfolg.
Carl Rütti (geb. 1949) ist kein Komponist, den jeder Musikliebhaber kennt – sollte man meinen. Doch betrachtet man die beachtliche Diskografie des gebürtigen Schweizers, stellt man fest, dass niemand Geringeres als der Londoner Bach Choir für Naxos bereits sein Requiem eingespielt hat. Rütti ist ein Komponist klarer Akzente, mit traditioneller Basis und gutem harmonischem Gespür. Seine 1998 entstandenen ‘Feuerzungen’ für Orgel (leider fehlt der Originaltitel des Werks im Booklet der CD) erweisen ihn als genuinen Komponisten für die ‚Königin der Musikinstrumente‘, auch wenn das Werk (über die Pfingstsequenz ‚Veni Sancte Spiritus‘) merkwürdig stark an zeitgenössische französische Komponisten erinnert. Das Label Guild hat bereits eine weitere Einspielung des Werks vorgelegt, bei der Rütti sein eigener Interpret ist; doch die hier von Martin Heini an der Goll-Orgel (1996) der Pfarrkirche St. Katharina in Horw vorgelegte Neueinspielung ist insgesamt stimmungsvoller. Dies liegt vor allem an der raumgreifenden Aufnahmeakustik (vielleicht hätte die CD als SACD vorgelegt werden sollen?), die sowohl die Orgel als auch das Werk sehr viel lebendiger und farbiger präsentiert.
Weitaus gewichtiger als das Werk für Orgel allein ist Rüttis zweites Orgelkonzert, 2011 in enger Zusammenarbeit mit dem Organisten Martin Heini und dem Dirigenten Rainer Held entstanden, die hier in der CD-Premiere zu hören sind. Die Besetzung Orgel, Streicher und Schlagwerk kommt nicht von ungefähr und generiert ein nahezu zwanghaftes Vis-à-vis zu Francis Poulencs Orgelkonzert, das die vorliegende CD logischerweise beschließt. Der Kopfsatz von Rüttis viersätziger Komposition ist kraftvoll, stark rhythmisch geprägt, mit äußerst memorablem Hauptthema und sorgsam ausgearbeiteten aus Momenten der Stille aufstrebenden Steigerungen. Nach einem ausladenden langsamen Satz und einem kurzen Scherzo ist das als Variationensatz angelegte Finale abermals äußerst klar gegliedert, mit einer ausgezeichnet gestalteter Steigerungslinie. Heini und Held merkt man die enge Verbindung zu dem Werk an, das ihnen gewidmet ist, und auch der Schlagzeuger Mario Schubiger (für den es im Booklet keine Kurzbiografie gibt) ist voll involviert. Angenehm frisch spielt das Kammerorchester der Staatlichen Philharmonie Novosibirsk auf, ein Streicherkörper, wie man ihn sich für das vorliegende Repertoire kaum erfreulicher wünschen kann.
Die gleichen Kräfte sind zu hören in Francis Poulencs Orgelkonzert aus dem Jahre 1934-8. Hier, so muss ich gestehen, bin ich mit der Raumakustik der Einspielung unglücklicher, da die angeschlagenen Tempi so flott, spannungsvoll, ‚knackig‘ sind, dass die Aufnahmetechnik die Klarheit der Interpretation ein wenig verunklart. Was höchst bedauerlich ist, denn selten habe ich eine so spannungsvolle Einspielung von Poulencs Orgelkonzert gehört.
Die CD wird komplettiert durch die selten zu hörenden Tschaikowsky-Variationen von Anton Arensky op. 35a (deren vierte Variation musikalisch durchaus mit dem Poulenc-Konzert in Verbindung gesetzt werden kann). Das 1894 entstandene Werk erfährt durch das ungemein temperamentvoll spielende Orchester eine Darbietung, die die großen berühmten Kammerorchestervereinigungen kaum besser hätte abliefern können. Ob also schweizerisch-britische, französische oder russische Musik oder schweizerische oder russische Interpreten – das Gesamtergebnis ist wunderbar rund. Bleiben nur das nicht überall genügend klare Klangbild (das bei Rüttis Solo-Orgelwerk der Interpretation ja sogar zuträglich war) und das Booklet, in dem ein paar Versäumnisse (fehlende originale Werktitel, mangelhafte Informationen zu ‘Feuerzungen’) das Gesamtvergnügen allerdings kaum beeinträchtigen.
Interpretation: ****
Klangqualität: ***
Repertoirewert: ****
Booklet: ***
Dr. Jürgen Schaarwächter

Musik & Liturgie – August 2012

Carl Rüttis neues Orgelkonzert uraufgeführt
Von Vögeln, Weihnachten und einer englischen HymneEin weitgereister und auswärts gefragter Organist erhält von seinem Dorf einen Kulturpreis. Für den preisträger ist diese, auch finanzielle Auszeichnung, ein Anstoss, die nicht eben üppig besetzte Gattung “Orgel und Orchester” anzureichern. Und damit nicht nur eine Schublade gefüllt wird, stehen auch ein Orchester und (insbesondere) ein Dirigent zur Verfügung, die das Werk aufführen wollen und können. Und vielleicht erfreut die CD-Einspielung nicht nur Musikbegeisterte, sondern lässt bei Berufskollegen oder Agenten die Idee reifen, Orgeln blasen, Saiteninstrumente streichen und Perkussionsinstrumente schlagen zu lassen. Die Rede ist vom Organisten Martin Heini, dem Komponisten Carl Rütti und dem Dirigenten Rainer Held mit dem Kammerorchester der Philharmonie Novosibirsk.
Von Herbert Ulrich
Den ganzen Text können Sie als PDF hier herunterladen. – July 2012

This is an exciting recording but it is not quite clear who the target audience are supposed to be. The two concerti are organ based and in marked contrast to the reflective work by Arensky which is for chamber orchestra alone.
While I thoroughly endorse the desire to broaden the audience for organ music across a wider range of listeners, I rather doubt the string enthusiast would be immediately drawn to the balance of works here. This would be a pity for they all have much to offer.
If the Poulenc is familiar it is also given a remarkably spiky reading, with a real intensity of approach from Martin Heini. He is playing the Goll organ of 1996 in the Pfarrkirche St Katharina at Horw, Switzerland which looks and sounds metallically north-german in style. This certainly suits Poulenc’s quasi medieval writing and the sparsity of romantic overtones.
The Arensky, arranged from a string quartet, makes a pleasing interlude before the Poulenc and after the most interesting sections of the recording – the works by Carl Rütti.
The Concerto for Organ Strings and Percussion is immediately persuasive, with its heady harmonies and jazz orientated rhythms. Surely this is a work which would win over organ sceptics? And as such needs to be far more familiar.
Tongues of Fire is based on the Latin hymn Veni sancte spiritus and includes bird song in a rather more familiar fashion than is often the case in works by Messiaen.
Well worth buying – soon. BH