Reviews

GMCD 7217 – Organ Masterworks by 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


RADIO TELEVISION BELGE DE LA COMMUNAUTE FRANCAISE

Quel plaisir d’écouter ces deux CDs du label GUILD qui sont vraiment enthousiasmants de la première à la dernière note, et cela pour plusieurs raisons.

Il existe deux sortes d’organistes. D’abord ceux qui ont fait des études complètes de pianiste, c’est-à-dire pouvant se valoir d’une technique à toute épreuve, se jouant des œuvres les plus complexes de, par exemple, Schumann, Liszt, Scriabine ou Ravel, et qui par goût personnel se sont tournés vers ” le roi des instruments ” : ce genre d’interprètes hélas en voie de disparition était la norme jusqu’il y a peu, avec des noms comme Liszt, Guilmant, Franck, Widor, Vierne, Tournemire, Dupré, Duruflé, Cochereau, qui ont transcendé l’instrument à la fois techniquement et musicalement. Et puis il y a ceux qui n’ont pas la technique ou le talent suffisants pour être pianistes, et qui sont venus à l’orgue en croyant camoufler leurs faiblesses, préconisant un retour aux instruments anciens (ou faits à l’ancienne), ce qui permet de mettre leur manque de technique sur le compte des défectuosités de l’instrument : dans cette catégorie, on en trouve le plus grand nombre, avec comme conséquence un répertoire la plupart du temps ennuyeux, peu passionnant, souvent basé sur le moindre “petit maître” de la musique ancienne. Ce genre d’exécutant parvient même à rendre ennuyeux la musique de cet immense compositeur de génie qu’était Bach, par l’absence totale de registration à l’intérieur des œuvres (sous ce faux prétexte que la partition ne donne aucune indication à ce sujet !…) C’est évidemment plus facile de jouer ainsi, car cela fait moins appel à l’imagination, et c’est plus rassurant, car on ne peut juger du goût de l’exécutant : en fin de compte, le vrai mélomane qui veut découvrir la musique pour orgue est bien souvent lésé et déçu.

Et puis, miracle ! De temps à autre, un label remarquable, en l’occurrence GUILD, nous révèle un véritable musicien, en parfaite communion avec la musique de Bach, un interprète qui bien évidemment fait partie de la première catégorie des organistes, en un mot, un artiste complet : Franz Hauk, ici aux grandes orgues Klais (1977) d’Ingolstadt, Münster. Nous avions déjà fortement apprécié cet organiste dans l’exécution de grandes fresques pour orgue et orchestre, notamment de Joseph Jongen, Alexandre Guilmant, Charles-Marie Widor et Marcel Dupré, dans lesquelles il avait fait montre d’une musicalité exemplaire servie par une technique parfaite et infaillible. Aussi notre impatience était grande de l’écouter dans ce répertoire particulièrement exigeant qu’est l’œuvre d’orgue solo de Bach.

Le résultat est au-dessus de toute espérance et de tout éloge : voici un Bach clair, chaleureux, scintillant, et surtout, ce qui n’est pas si courant à l’orgue, un Bach vivant et constamment passionnant. Le plaisir est tel que nous avons écouté ces deux CDs d’un bout à l’autre, sans interruption (on ne peut en dire autant de tous les enregistrements d’orgue solo, loin s’en faut !) Ce plaisir est du non seulement à la technique sure et à toute épreuve de Franz Hauk qui met d’office son auditeur entièrement à l’aise, mais aussi aux multiples registrations qui modifient constamment l’approche et l’éclairage spécifiques des diverses pièces, selon leur caractère propre : le premier CD est consacré essentiellement aux Toccatas et Fugues BVW 540, 564, 565, Prélude et Fugue BVW 532, Fantaisie et Fugue en sol mineur BVW 542 et quelques Chorals-Préludes ; et le second nous révèle les Concertos d’après Vivaldi dans toute leur splendeur, agrémentés de 3 trios et des 6 Chorals ” Schübler ” dont le célèbre Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme enfin pris dans un tempo naturellement allant, loin des interprétations pachydermiques dont on nous gratifie trop souvent…

Voilà donc l’interprétation rêvée des pages essentielles du Cantor de Leipzig en deux CDs absolument recommandables, et pas seulement aux mélomanes ne désirant pas une intégrale de l’œuvre d’orgue solo de Bach (la seule intégrale valable restant à notre avis celle de Michel Chapuis), et même si Franz Hauk n’envisage pas de graver tout l’œuvre d’orgue de Bach, espérons qu’il nous en offre encore d’autres pages, car du Bach interprété de cette manière, on en redemande !…

Enfin, ce qui ne gâte rien, la prise de son illumine ces admirables exécutions par sa clarté et sa richesse rayonnante.
Michel TIBBAUT


Cathedral Music October 2001

A disc packed with some interesting readings of Bach favourites in the organ repertoire – even the much-played Toccata and Fugue in D minor (BWV 565) comes off sounding quite fresh. Hauk clearly favours giving the larger works such as this, the Toccata, Adagio & Fugue in C, the Fantasy & Fugue in G minor, the Toccata & Fugue in F and the Prelude & Fugue in D – grand performances which draw on much of the vast organ’s resources, and why not? The scattering of more subdued chorale preludes prevents the disc from being too overpowering. There is some unusual ornamentation, dubious even. But the playing always has great clarity – even the Fugue in D, which is taken at a very brisk pace – and the acoustics are remarkable.
Martin Wolf


The Organ Vol 80 No 317 – August 2001

Apart from the first work on this CD there can be no doubting the title of this disc although one could easily suggest masterpieces by Bach that might be included in such a collection. Several of the larger preludes/toccatas are interspersed with various choral preludes, a good balance of large and small-scale works.

Franz Hauk’s performances on the large Klais organ at Ingolstadt (1977 IV/69) are finely crafted (although his performance of the Toccata in F, BWV 540 is far too fast, ridiculously so) but to my ears it is the smaller works that work best That is probably due to the organ; not that I dislike this instrument which is a typical Klais of its period, a big organ in a big acoustic. However, it’s the acoustic that’s the problem. With the louder pieces the sound washes round the building and I found that for example, the Fantasy and Fugue in G minor BWV 542 was almost painful to listen to.

Having heard Bach on the comparable Klais organ in Trier Cathedral, I am certain that it works better in the building but it is not convincing on CD. Best listened to in small doses.
DW


MUSIC TEACHERS – UK –  JUNE 2001

Now that 2000 is over, we can sit back, relax and enjoy Bach again, safe in the knowledge that the overkill of the last twelve months is not likely to recur for the next 84 years. By that time, with a little luck, not only will there be a whole new breed performers to start the ball rolling again, but also a whole new breed of reviewers to cope with it. Yet it seems a shame that the release of this recording of Bach organ music, performed by Franz Hauk on the Klais instrument at Ingolstadt Münster, has been mistimed, since this is one of the more interesting releases of the last twelve months and is certainly worth a listening.

There is no denying Hauk’s ability as a performer: his technique is both steely efficient and clean, and his masculine, almost driven sense of rhythm is a welcome change from some of the more recent recordings of Bach’s organ music. And therein lies the only reservation I have about the disc, since most of the large-scale works are approached from the fast side. Take, for instance, the g minor fantasia and fugue, which he manages to polish off in a mere eleven and a half minutes, a timing comparable only with Simon Preston’s somewhat quirky performance on DG: the playing is articulate and crisp, and although the underlying pulse is noticeable in the fantasia, there remains a beautifully- judged sense of freedom. The fugue, on the other hand, is simply too fast for comfort: sense of line becomes somewhat lost in the lavish acoustic of Ingolstadt Münster, and the whole performance is saved only by the close recording proximity. Despite this drawback, there are some real gems on this disc, especially in the slower movements and chorale preludes: the siciliano-like middle movement of the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue in C, for example, is almost Schweitzerian in its musicality. It is rich in affekt, yet somehow manages to remain aloof from over-sentimentality, an approach that is also found in the three Orgel-Büchlein chorales, Vom Himmel kam der Engel Schar, Der Tag, der is so freudenreich and In dulci jubilo. However, if you want to hear some really superb playing, listen to the performance of Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland (BWV 659): again one cannot commend Hauk highly enough for his ability to play with a wonderful of flexibility, whilst retaining that all-important underlying pulse and sense of structure.

Registrations are perhaps a little too imaginative at times and I do have reservations about making manual changes, as, for example, in the g minor fantasia or at the end of the second movement of the Toccata, Adagio and Fugue. Although the both the recording quality and mastering are of the highest order, the close proximity of the microphones to the organ does slightly over-emphasise some of the upper work, especially a rather sharp and, in this instance, grating Acuta, which I found a constant bug-bear in the plenum ensemble. Overall, however, this is an exciting and worthwhile release: Hauk’s playing is flexible, exciting and although a little fast at times, he manages to shed new light on some old ‘chestnuts’, and for no other reason than this, it is a recommended purchase.
John Woodford