GMCD 7264 – Works for Organ and Orchestra by Paer, Lainglais, Schneider, Widor, Bach
The Georgian Chamber Orchestra Ingolstadt, Markus Poschner – Conductor, Franz Hauk – Organ
Fanfare, September/October 2006
This release is noteworthy both for its enlightening Choke of virtually unknown repertoire and for the enthusiastic and elegantly vervy performances offered by Franz Hauk and the Georgian Chamber Orchestra under Markus Poschner. To the best of my knowledge, this is the only recording extant of the Paer and Schneider concertos and of the two Langlais pieces. In any event, all the music an this offering receives fine advocacy.
Ferdinando Paer (1771-1831) was born in Parma, rose to the position of honorary maestro di capella in that city’s court, and later, in 1797, gained the directorship of the prestigious Kärnthnertortheater in Vienna. While there, he befriended Beethoven who, incidentally, thought highly of his music. Paer had already produced two highly acclaimed operas-Orphee et Euridice and Le astuzie amorose in Italy, and his fame preceded him. In 1801, he accepted the appointment of Court Kapellmeister for life in Dresden, where he scored further operatic triumphs. Six years later Napoleon lured him away and installed him as maitre de chapelle in Paris, where he also ascended to the position of co-director (with Rossini) of the Théâtre-Italien. It was a stormy relationship ultimately leading to his dismissal in 1827. Afterward he was the recipient of the customary honorary awards. One of his operas, Le mâitre de chapelle of 1821, held the boards until the early years of the 20th century.
Now Paer can be counted among the most obscure of the obscure. Given the irrepressible Invention and fine craftsmanship of his Concerto in D for organ and orchestra, one has to ask why. The easiest answer is that musical fashions change. After all, from the mid-to-late 19th century, Joachim Raff was among the most offen performed composers in the Eurocentric world, and now … ? The real reasons are undoubtedly more complex-having more to do with the exigencies of the commercial propagation of music than with the music’s intrinsic worth. Paer’s organ concerto belongs to the highest flowering of the Classical period. It presents an amalgam of Haydn, Mozart, and early Beethoven occasionally leavened with Italianate melodic riffs that Gould have been composed by Rossini. In the precision of his musical utterances and the deployment of his instrumental resources, he brings Hummel at his Best to mind. This is a two-hands-and-no-feet organ concerto, with the solo Instrument pitted against a chamber-sized orchestra (with the addition of festive trumpets and timpani). Hauk’s instrument-the Klais Organ in Liebfrauenmünster, Ingolstadt, Switzerland (built in 1977)–is a large one capable of realizing repertoire from Widor onward. Here Hauk appropriately employs registrations that make it sound like a most magic of calliopes and the result is enchanting, communicating the festive joy that informs every one of this concerto’s bars.
Enjott Schneider’s “Echo” Concerto for Organ and Streng Orchestra, premiered in 2002, is this offering’s most up-to-date piece. Schneider was born in 1950 in Wiel am Rhein, is German trained, and currently holds the post of professor of music theory and of film music at the Munich Music Academy. Like most contemporary composers, he is stylistically eclectic-freely deploying whatever musical isms are available in order to realize his affective goals. This “Echo” concerto chronicles the myth of the mountain elf Echo and her doomed love affair with Narcissus. The echo aspect of the piece is cleverly exploited mach in the Same way as Sweelinck did in his numerous echo fantasias for organ. Variously minimalistic and sumptuously Franckian (and all shades in between), this is a narrative piece par excellence-sonically nuanced and rigorously designed (not a wasted gesture or note). Everything is symphonically, that is to say, synergistically, developed over its roughly 23-miaute time span.
I won’t dwell an the Langlais pieces, except to say that these performances are their very first recorded versions; are sensitive to Langlais’s offen modal harmonies; and are, in the global sense, idiomatically an the mark. Widor’s Salvum fac populum tuum was composed in celebration of the end of World War I. A comparison with Joan Lippincott’s reading with the Philadelphia Brass Ensemble an Gothic 49072 is ear-opening. She sees the simple grandeur of what is, an the surface, a mere occasional piece. Hauk and his forces project (with their snare drum contributions not found in Lippincott’s recording) a frightening sense of foreboding. Here Widor suddenly transcends his well-worn neo-Romantic niche and predicts the horrors of the 20th century yet to come.
The Georgian Chamber Orchestra hails from Stalin’s birthplace. They were an tour back in 1990, found the Swiss city of Ingolstadt congenial, and chose to stay. They are not the most svelte of bands in the let’s-prettify-everything Karajan mold, bat they play with a spirit and energy that is both infectious and disarming. Those last qualities show up most persuasively in the final little Bach prelude to Cantata No. 29-Bach’s own transcription of the opening movement of his Partita in E Major for solo violin. Here the organ takes the violin live amid the festive trumpets and timpani, and blows away the listener in an unstoppable wash of Sound. Next to this performance, Jean Guillou’s reading an Dorian DOR-90122 seems absolutely stodgy.
The recorded sound is up to realizing the subtle flute stops found in the Paer concerto, and the fall wallop of the pedal tones found everywhere else. Balances between the organ and all the ancillary instruments are convincing.
American Guild June 04
This is another in Guild’s series (July/Aug 2000, Sept/Oct 2000) of Triumphal Music for Organ & Orchestra, devoted this time mostly to unfamiliar literature. Ferdinando Paer (1771- 1839) was a Dresden native who was lucky enough to catch the appreciative ear of Napoleon, who took him to Paris to work. Later, he and Rossini were co-directors of the Italian Theatre. His Organ Concerto was probably written to inaugurate a new Serassi organ in the oratory of SS Trinita in Parma. For all its length (24 minutes), there is little memorable about it. It is entirely dominated by orchestral sections, the organ relegated to minor status, with passages mostly for muted flute stops.
Langlais’s extremely brief (2 minutes) Choral begins with a brass fanfare answered by the organ, not unlike the beginning of his Salve Regina Mass. It has that kind of parallel fifth medieval quality so prominent in his writing.
Enjott Schneider (b. 1950) is a German musicologist and theory teacher in Munich. His three-part piece opens with a playful dance based on the Echo-Narcissus myth. Organ motifs are answered by the orchestra. A dreamy slow section follows, with plenty of repetition, as befits the story. A much more forceful finale concludes the work with chord outlines and scale runs, all very brisk but forgettable.
Widor wrote his contribution in 1916 to celebrate the conclusion of WW I. It is simple in form and content, with a decidedly martial quality. It is a strong piece for organ, six brass, and percussion and would be a fine prelude or opener for some ecclesiastical or military program. The title (Let your people be saved) is extracted from the Te Deum. Another very respectable performance of this comes from the Dallas Winds (Reference 58-May/June 1994).
Langlais’s Theme & Variations is scored for organ, three trumpets, three trombones, and strings. Written in 1937, it has remained in manuscript and is heard here for the first time with permission from the composer’s widow. The chromatic theme heard first is a passacaglia, followed by variations that grow in speed and intensity. This is a somewhat murky work, full of Langlais’s characteristic musical anger.
The program closes with the popular overture to Bach’s Cantata 29 (Wir Danken Dir). The piece began life as the Partita in E. Later it was transcribed by Dupré as an organ solo, and even later by Wendy Carlos for synthesizer. The tempo here is rather speedy, robbing it of any grandeur.
This is the least appealing entry in the series-a fault of the literature and not the performers. The organ is not identified, but it is a fine 4-106 Klais in Liebfrauenmunster, Ingolstadt.
BBC Music Magazine February 2004
One for organ buffs, this, but for those who are more interested in rare repertoire than judiciously balanced recordings and tidy ensemble. The tuttis of the unpublished Concerto in D by Ferdinando Paër (1771- 1839) echo round the Liebfrauenmünster, Ingolstadt, with all the sonic focus of an empty swimming pool. The mighty Klais organ, tamed to mouselike proportions, is all but drowned by Markus Poschner’s band, though Franz Hauk scampers around to agreeable effect in a finger-fest of Alberti basses and insipid themes. After this, its full-throated roar at the discordant start of Langlais’s Choral médieval is like being given a belt between the shoulder blades. The three-movement Echo Concerto (Premiered 2002) by Enjott Schneider (b 1950) is a substantial, 24-minute work with some lively ideas and a viciously whirling presto finale. This, Widor’s Salvum fac populum tuum (written, optimistically, in 1916 to celebrate the end of the First World War) and Langlais’s Thème, variations et final are powerfully effective and, by contrast, benefit from the majestic organ and its location. The concluding Sinfonia from Bach’s cantata Wir danken dir, Gott (more recognisable as the Prelude from the solo violin Partita in E, BWV 1006) really could have done with an other take or three.
International Record Review February 2004
Entirely Satisfying in its execution and intriguing in its conception is Enjott Schneider’s new (2002) Echo Concerto for organ and string orchestra. This tree-movement work is based on the classical myth of the nymph Echo’s unrequited love for Narcissus. Schneider’s music is intelligently written and scored. The idiom is broadly tonal, although developing in intensity as the music progresses, and there are some arresting effects. While this is undoubtedly the most unusual piece on the disc, other works are just as interesting for their rarity. The apparently unpublished Concerto in D for organ and orchestra, written in the 1790s by the irrepressibly cheerful Ferdinando Paër, well deserves its outing. At the other end of the spectrum, indeed very much more serious, are three works for organ with brass ensemble. Salvum fac populum tuum, written by Widor in anticipation of the end of the First World War, is better known that the Choral Médieval and Thème, Variations et Final of Jean Langlais. Unpublished in these versions, the Langlais pieces have a novelty value, though there are some problems of intonation between brass and solo instrument. Organist Franz Hauk deserves credit for recording this repertoire; this is now the sixth disc of organ and orchestral music he has made for Guild in collaboration with various Ingolstadt-based orchestras
MusicWeb Monday November 17 03
Unlike other instalments in Guild’s ongoing series of recordings of works for organ and orchestra which I reviewed some time ago, this new release is somewhat different in that the works recorded here belong to quite different musical periods. The disc opens with Paër’s Concerto in D major composed about 1794-1795, probably for the inauguration of a new organ at the Oratorio della SS. Trinita in Parma, which is cast in a completely traditional mould and in a classical idiom. It is nonetheless a substantial and attractive work of some nobility. The closing item is the Prelude from Bach’s cantata Wir danken dir, Gott BWV 29 which ends this programme in an appropriately bright, festive mood.
More recent pieces (i.e. from the 20th Century) are included, which makes this disc the more desirable. The earliest of these is Widor’s Salvum fac populum tuum for organ, three trumpets, three trombones and side drum. This was composed in 1916, possibly in anticipation of the end of World War I. For obvious reasons, Widor conducted the first performance six days after the end of the war in Notre-Dame on November 17th, 1918. The title is borrowed from the Te Deum, but the piece – to the best of my knowledge – does not quote any plainsong tune. It takes the form of a solemn processional with strong march rhythms and broad tunes, thankfully full of restraint and free from any jingoism. A dignified, deeply felt work for all its brevity.
Langlais, whose splendid Third Concerto featured in Guild GMCD 7240 which I reviewed here some time ago, is represented by two hitherto unpublished works. His short Choral médiéval for organ, three trumpets and three trombones (we are not told when this was composed) is based on the Kyrie of the third choral mass Deus sempiterne and ends with a brief statement of Victimae paschali laudes. His Thème, Variations et Final, completed in 1937, is an altogether more substantial work. It is scored for strings, three trumpets and three trombones, and is roughly cast as a grand passacaglia opening with the sombre, brooding theme in the basses. The contrasted variations follow in quick succession and are capped by the concluding fugue enlivened by the brilliance of the brass contributions. The insert notes, excellent as usual, do not make it clear, but it seems that Langlais reworked the piece in 1961 to make it his Second Organ Concerto (organ and strings, without any brass). Maybe some reader might prove me wrong… or right? Anyway, this is a worthwhile addition to Langlais’s discography and one that his admirers will want to have.
The most recent work here is Enjott Schneider’s Echo – Concerto for Organ and Strings which was first performed in 2002 and probably completed about that time. The composer describes his work as an “unproblematic organ concerto” roughly inspired by the myth of the mountain nymph Echo and her unrequited love for Narcissus. Echo is in three movements, a long slow movement (“Echo and Narcissus”) framed by a lilting Dance and a lively Finale. The music is clear-cut, direct and accessible in a Neo-classical manner, though the organ part may not be as easy as expected, particularly so in the outer movements. It sometimes brought to mind the happy music making displayed in Hans-André Stamm’s Organ Concerto, another accessible and enjoyable candidate for Guild’s series of organ concertos.
The present release is yet another fine instalment in this Guild series which will hopefully go on exploring this unfamiliar but often quite rewarding repertoire. Hauk’s readings, more than ably supported by the orchestra and Guild’s overall production, are superb throughout. Again, the recording team successfully mastered the reverberating acoustics of Ingolstadt’s Liebfrauenmünster. More of this, please. Warmly recommended.
Classical Net Wednesday October 15 03
This is the sixth CD in an excellent series by Guild concentrating on the rarely heard organ and orchestra genre. Franz Hauk and Markus Poschner team up to provide a series of showstoppers and barnstormers coupled with some quieter moments.
The Paër concerto is an interesting document with a typical piano part substituted by the organ. It does make for some pleasant listening but is definitely nothing to write home about. Langalis’ ‘Choral’ is a short majestic piece that is better suited to Hauk’s virtuoso powers.
Schneider’s ‘Echo’ Concert is a very innovative piece that plays on the echoing capabilities of the instrument and provides an intriguing look at such effects. My favourite piece on this disc is definitely Widor’s bombastic ‘Salvum fac populum tuum’, really great stuff that gets quite emotional at its loud end!
Langlais returns with his Theme and Variations for vast resources that brings the house down but Haul and Poschner choose a Bach gem to end the disc on a pensive note. The organist provides suitably detailed notes and the whole project is one to be recommended wholeheartedly.