Reviews

GMCD 7221 – Organ Masterworks ba Bach with Franz Hauk

Franz Hauk at the Great Klais Organ of Liebfrauenmünster Ingolstadt

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Organists’ Review November 2001

‘The four-rnanual 1977 10ais organ in the Lebfrauenmunster at lngolstadt needs no introduction. Franz Hauk, minster organist since 1982, knows it well, and makes a thrilling sound from its sparking upperwork and bubbling reeds in the major works on these disks. The generous echo extends the pleasure. How it must sound playing Reger! These Bach recordings are energetic, the drive is powerful, and Hauk’s technical mastery is secure. At its best, this is an impressive, exciting recording and Hauk is a man exuding virtuosity. But not always, I think, using it to the service of the music. The vitality of the Toccata, Adagio, and Fugue is persuasive, the energy of the D minor Toccata and Fugue likewise. But all begins to weaken in effect when one realises that nearly all these pieces are treated to breakneck performances and often unrelentingly spiky articulation (the fugue subject of the D major Fugue is a notable example), leaving the listener little chance to hear the architecture of this perfect counterpoint properly. I have always thought the Schübler chorale Wo soll ich fliehen hin an elegant texture of bright, interweaving lines, penetrated by the clear sound of the stately chorale in the alto.

The operative verb is fliehen – flee – but Dr Hauk plays it as a whirlwind, a ‘turbulent… restless’ piece, his inlay notes say. This is storming, not fleeing, and, apart from anything else, the sound overwhelms the light pedal stop to which he ascribes the chorale tmie. Of course, this is only an example, and

interpretations differ. except in many of these pieces, where interpretations are more or less the same. Wachet Auf is hectic, the pedal booming at a distance; the Toccata and Fugue in F is technically a marvel, but eventually wearing in its relentless speed; the Fantasy and Fugue in G minor dazzles, then frazzles. Where this approach works convincingly is in the Vivaldi concerti. The counterpoint is less demanding and so less is lost: the fast movements gain bloom from Hauk’s tightly controlled delivery. The A minor concerto is particularly successful. But for the rest, it is too much like travelling past great Gothic buildings on a high-speed train.
Francis 0’Gorman


Cathedral Music October 2001

This is a delightful CD. Not only is the recording level set right, the playing is excellent. The concerti are well registered and in particular the Concerto in C BWV 595 and the one in G BWV 592 are charming. BWV 592 dances away and this is the essence of the CD’s rhythmical playing. This is one of those CDs that will be played over and over again. Herr Hauk’s expressive playing and the ability to make the chorales not too overbearing make this disc very enjoyable. From the wonderful Kommst du nun to the Trios there is something on this disc to please everybody. Well recommended.
Patrick Mayhew

By David Wright

Another winner from Guild.

Right from the opening piece, the famous Wachet auf, I knew I was in for a treat. At last, at long last, an organist who plays it at the correct tempi without that ghastly baroque fussiness. No dawdling … thankfully.

This is followed by an adaptation of a Violin Concerto in C by Prince Johann Ernst in a short three movement ritornello form. Again, the organist plays it with both spirit and verve and it is highly engaging. Baroque music should always have this vitality. As the sleeve note says this is music of charm and demonstrates Bach’s cleverness as an arranger, among all his other many talents!

The Trio in G, BWV 586, has a crystal clarity and this is followed by a Vivaldi Concerto in D minor based on his Opus 3. This transcription may not be as effective as others. I found the opening of the work somewhat derivative and slightly tedious but the majesty of the second movement was a welcome relief. There was a well-judged build up and my admiration for this organist increased. His really does have style which compensates for the predictability of the music! I love the mystery he instils into the penultimate movement. It is almost strange but very convincing! The finale has splendid integration and not a little excitement. And what articulation … particularly those repeated notes.

Ach Bleibh bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ Ach Bleibh bei uns, Herr Jesu Christ is taken from Cantata Six. It is described as a restless piece. Well, maybe…. but what a theme and the decorative figurations are simply delightful. Bach played with life and joy! As I keep saying , “Everyone should play Bach like this.” Fortunately more people are. We are getting away from that boring authentic correctness which lingers and drags over every detail. The Aria in F BWV 587 is a curious piece but hear it yourself and see if you can detect what I mean. The next Concerto, in A minor, again harks back to Vivaldi’s Opus 3 published in Amsterdam in 1711. The opening movement teems with a playful joy which is not exaggerated. The purists may not like me saying this but this is fun music. It has a wonderful ability to involve you and “turn your weeping into joy.” I found the stringendo off-putting and I felt the tempo should have remained constant but this is a minor point.

There follows four of the Schubler Chorales, a trio. and two more ‘Vivaldi’ concertos.

I do not wish to deter from this highly impressive disc and I do heartily recommend it but both Linda and I found the sleeve notes very confusing. It is not always clear what the writer is saying or means … or both. He would have done better to say directly how Bach worked these transcriptions and how the originals were different. He would have also done better to make definite statements such as this concerto is a transcription of Vivaldi’s opus 3 no. 11 and that is musically the same, being a direct arrangement for organ of a concerto for violin and strings…if that is the case. Not everyone is an expert on Bach’s transcription and what is the difference between a Bach transcription and an arrangement?

I suppose that this definition is important to me as I am a black and white person. There is much to admire in these performances!