Organ Concertos

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ORGAN CONCERTOS 1 Erzsébet Achim (org); 2 Istvan Ella (org); 1,2 Corelli CO; 3,6 Christine Schornsheim (org); 3 Max Pommer, cond; 3 Neues Bachisches Collegium Musicum; 4 Roland Münch (org); 4,9 Hartmut Haenchen, cond; 4 Kalus Kirbach (hpd); 4 Carl Philipp Emmanuel Bach CO; 5 Gábor Lehotka (org); 5 Budapest Strings; 6 Mary Utiger, cond; 6 Neue Düsseldorf Hofmusik (period instruments); 7 Fran Lehrndorfer (org); 7 Wilfried Boettcher, cond; 7 Cappella Coloniensis; 8 Martin Haselböck (org); 8 Martin Haselböck, cond; 8 Thomas Fheodoroff (vn); 8 Regine Schröder (vn); 8 Vienna Academy; 9,10 Andreas Juffinger (org); 9 Berlin RSO; 10 Ernö Sebestyen (vn) CAPRICCIO 7172 (5 CDs: 336:27)

HANDEL Organ Concertos: 1 No. 6 in B?, HWV 294; 1 No. 3 in g, HWV 291; 1 No. 4 in F, HWV 292; 1 No. 2 in B?, HWV 290; 1 No. 5 in F, BWV 293; 2 No. 13 in F, HWV 295, “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale.” 3 BACH Organ Concerto in d (reconstruction after BWV 146/1, BWV 146/2, and BWV 188/1). C. P. E. BACH Organ Concertos: 4 in G, Wq 34; 4 in E?, Wq 35. HAYDN Organ Concertos: 5 in C, Hob XVIII:1; 5 in C, Hob XVIII:5; 5 in C, Hob XVIII:8; 5 in C, Hob XIVI:11; 5 in C, Hob XIV:12; 6 in C, Hob XVIII:10. M. HAYDN 7 Concerto in C for Organ and Viola. MOZART Church Sonatas for Two Violins, Organ, and Bass: 8 in C, K 336(d); 8 in F, K 224 (241a); 8 in E?, K 67 (41h); 8 in C, K 328 (317c). RHEINBERGER Organ Concertos: 9 in F, op. 137; 9 in g, op. 177. 10 Suite for Violin and Organ, op. 166

Much as I enjoyed listening to this collection, and could be easily encouraged to go on at length about it, as you’ve probably guessed, these discs are not new, and most have been reviewed in previous issues. Therefore, in accordance with our editorial directive to treat reissues briefly, I shall try to be brief.

For this collection Capriccio has culled recordings made between 1975 and 2008, and which were originally released individually, though in some cases programmed differently than they are here.

Disc one is an all-Handel program, featuring six of the composer’s organ concertos, all but one of them—the first five listed—from the op. 4 set. The last concerto listed, No. 13 in F, is probably the most famous of the composer’s organ concertos, “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale,” but it’s one of two stand-alone concertos not included in either of the published sets. Organist Erzsébet Achim does the honors for the first five concertos, while “The Cuckoo and the Nightingale” is played by Istvan Ella. The Corelli Chamber Orchestra plays in all six.

Satisfying as these performances are, I can’t help but wonder what the incentive is to acquire a single disc of six of these concertos when there are some 16 of them which have been recorded a number times complete in sets to suit the tastes of both modern and period instrument buffs, ranging from E. Power Biggs with Adrian Boult and the London Philharmonic, to Simon Preston with Yehudi Menuhin and the Menuhin Festival Orchestra, to Simon Preston again with Trevor Pinnock, this time with the English Concert.

The Organ Concerto in D Minor by Bach which opens disc two has a bit of a complicated history, but without going into detail, you’re sure to recognize it as the Harpsichord Concerto in D Minor, BWV 1052. Suffice it to say that the music had more than one prior life, probably as a concerto for violin and definitely as movements in Bach’s Cantatas, Wir müssen durch viel Trübsal in das Reich Gottes eingehen, BWV 146 and Ich habe meine Zuversicht , BWV 188.

C. P. E. Bach is known to have composed a number of organ sonatas for Princess Anna Amalia of Prussia and her “house” organ built by Johann Peter Migend. So, by logical extension, it’s thought, though not proven, that she was also the recipient of Bach’s organ concertos. By all accounts, Anna was a dedicated music lover, patron of the arts, and a reasonably well-accomplished keyboard player; but either she was of short stature or her technical abilities may have been hampered by a pair of ill-coordinated feet, for these works are scored as if for an instrument with only two manuals and no pedals. The upshot is that these concertos are just as well suited to be played on a two-manual harpsichord as they are on organ or, as they are on BIS, by Miklós Spányi, on a tangent piano. On the current recording, Roland Münch plays the Migend organ at the Zur Frohen Botschaft Church in Berlin, the one and the same instrument Anna commissioned from Migend in 1753. After a number of moves following her death, the organ found its current, and presumed final, resting place in Berlin’s Karlshorst borough in 1960, which is where these concertos were recorded in 1985.

The situation with Haydn’s organ concertos is similar to that of C. P. E. Bach’s concertos. Some may indeed have been intended specifically for organ, such as the C-Major Concerto, Hob XVIII:1, which the manuscript designates as “Concerto per l’organo,” but others are written in a way that makes them equally suitable for performance on harpsichord or fortepiano. Michael Carter reviewed a two-disc Capriccio set containing a mix of Haydn’s keyboard concertos for organ, harpsichord, and fortepiano in 33:4. In only one instance, however, is there any duplication between that set and this one. In the set reviewed by Carter, eight of Haydn’s keyboard concertos are all played by Christine Schornsheim and the Neue Düsseldorf Hofmusik, conducted by Mary Utiger. Of those eight numbers, it’s only the C-Major Concerto, Hob XVIII:10, that’s duplicated in the current set. James North reviewed a release in 13:6, which, unquestionably, is the exact same CD in its entirety as disc three in the current set containing the five Haydn concertos performed by Gábor Lehotka and the Budapest Strings. The only difference is that that release, according to North’s review header, was distributed by Qualiton on the Hungaroton label, not on Capriccio.

But for a couple of exceptions—the Cello Concerto in D Major, Hob VIIb:2, and the Trumpet Concerto in E? Major, Hob VIIe:1—we tend not to think of Haydn as a composer who excelled in the concerto genre in the way that Mozart did. We’re more apt to accord Haydn primacy in the realms of symphony and string quartet. Yet Haydn composed more concertos than Mozart did, and in some cases for rather unusual instruments, such as the lira organizzata, a crank-operated, hurdy-gurdy-like contraption that looked less like a musical instrument than it did a combination bread-slicer and sausage-maker. Today it can be found in the graveyard of extinct musical instruments alongside the arpeggione of one-time Schubert fame and the lituus, an eight-foot long trumpet-like instrument Bach scored for in his 1736 Cantata, O Jesu Christ, meins Lebens Licht , BWV 118.

Haydn’s concertos are as enjoyable as can be, filled with the ebullience, joi de vivre , and irrepressible melodic and harmonic invention that characterize so much of the composer’s music. Long a staple in my collection has been the two-disc Philips set with Ton Koopman at the organ and conducting the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra. Those performances, of course, are on period instruments; the current performances of the five concertos on disc three with the Lehotka and Budapest Strings are not, but the spillover sixth concerto on disc four with Schornsheim and the Neue Düsseldorf Hofmusik is.

First up on disc four is the Concerto in C Major for Organ and Viola by Michael Haydn. This one was reviewed by Michael Carter in 33:3, but on a Phoenix Edition release that coupled the Concerto with three of Michael Haydn’s symphonies. Carter called the performances “barely acceptable and unmemorable.” The piece hasn’t a great deal to recommend it either, but I did pull off my shelf a dust-covered Decca album devoted to works by Michael Haydn, and on it is this Concerto in a somewhat livelier and more stylish performance by organist Simon Preston and violist Stephen Shingles with the always reliable Neville Marriner and Academy of St Martin in the Fields.

The rest of disc four is filled out with four of Mozart’s Church (Epistle) Sonatas, intended to be played as interludes between the Epistle and Gospel sections of the Mass. Eight of them—Nos. 1–6, 11, and 16—are duos for two violins with bass continuo. Six more—Nos. 7–10, 13, and 15—add organ obbligato to the ensemble, essentially making them trio sonatas. That leaves three—Nos. 12, 14, and 17—to which Mozart added woodwinds, brass, and timpani in various combinations. Organist Martin Haselböck and the Vienna Academy join with violinists Thomas Fheodoroff and Regine Schröder for a full orchestral treatment of the Sonatas 1, 7, 13, and 15, all four of which are among the very ones that call for smaller ensembles, but I can’t be too hard on Haselböck, who also conducts these performances, because most recordings of these pieces take a similar approach.

Finally, we arrive at disc five, and it comes as quite a shock to go from Handel, Bach, Haydn, and Mozart to the grand Romantic-styled organ works of Joseph Rheinberger (1839–1901). Alas, this disc, too, shows up in the Fanfare Archive, reviewed by David Johnson in 16:2. I have to admit that impressive though these concertos are as big, colorful, Romantic romps, the piece that concludes this CD, the Suite for Violin and Organ, op. 166, which I’d never heard before, absolutely took my breath away. If you’re familiar with Saint-Saëns’s D-Minor Violin Sonata, you’ll know the passage I’m referring to in the last movement where the violin suddenly takes off like The Flight of the Bumblebee and goes on for a whole lot of measures before it finally yields to the piano. Well, the last movement of Rheinberger’s Suite, marked Moto perpetuo is like that, except it goes on and on and on. How Ernö Sebestyen’s bowing arm doesn’t fall off is a miracle. It’s truly amazing how anyone can keep up such relentless rapid bow motion for such an extended length of time.

Any fan of concerted works for organ and orchestra can enjoy these reissued releases, assuming the medley approach to programming is agreeable. Performances, for the most part, are quite good, and even the earlier recorded discs display fine sound.

FANFARE: Jerry Dubins    

Product Description:

  • Catalog Number: C7172

  • UPC: 845221071725

  • Label: Capriccio