Notes and Editorial Reviews
IAIN QUINN PLAYS CZECH MUSIC
Iain Quinn (org)
CHANDOS 10463 (73:08)
Fugue in g.
Variations on “Victimae paschali laudes”
Though nearly all the composers on this disc are familiar names, they are not staples of the organ repertoire. As a follow-up to his Chandos release of Russian organ music, Welsh organist Iain Quinn (resident in the United States since 1994) investigates the few organ pieces written by the major Czech composers of the 19th and 20th centuries.
(1942) is a half-hour work in the Romantic symphonic organ tradition. The nationalist style that pervades the rest of Novák’s output is very much present in this work; the liner notes claim it was, at the time of its composition, the largest organ piece written by a Czech composer. The best movement is the central one, an extended passacaglia.
The exceptionally prolific Bohuslav Martin? was, at the time of his death, planning to compose a series of organ solo pieces. He only managed to complete (via dictation) most of this work,
(1959), the score of which was finalized by his son following his death. As such, it is both Martin?’s final composition and his only piece for organ. The piece opens with a simple, modally wandering melody that develops into a more homophonic, hymn-like texture. Like a number of Martin?’s lesser compositions, it contains sections of strange harmonic shifts that do not feel entirely well conceived.
Dvo?ák’s eight organ works (five preludes and three fugues) date from his school years, during which time he held a position as organist of the Bohemian Theater Orchestra. His organ pieces do not display the fervor and Czech identity of his most characteristic, mature music. Quinn is thus quite right to represent him only with this very short work and devote the time to other composers.
Bed?ich Smetana, best known for his operas, composed only a single organ work, this set of six preludes (1846) written for liturgical use in the Roman Catholic Mass. The preludes are each under three minutes duration and are simple in texture and concept. While they are not really of sufficient interest for recital use, they are certainly suitable for their intended purpose.
Leoš Janá?ek is represented on the disc by the exciting solo organ movement from his
(1926–27), an immense work for chorus and orchestra. The difficult organ solo features an ostinato in the organ pedals, designed to represent the pealing of bells.
Although he is the least famous composer on this CD, Ji?í Ropek (1922–2005) composed more organ music than did any of the others. As one of the most distinguished Czech concert organists of the 20th century, Ropek wrote a number of organ and choral works, the most famous of which is the set of plainchant variations included here. As is often the case with sets of variations written by composer-organists, there is a great deal of opportunity provided for showing off the player’s technique and the organ’s different sounds.
Without doubt, the greatest Czech composer for the organ was Petr Eben (1929–2007). Eben’s excellent organ music is widely played and recorded (including an in-progress complete cycle on Hyperion), which is likely the reason that Quinn chose to omit him from this compilation. Still, it should be noted that to record a CD that claims to represent Czech organ music and not include Eben would be like recording a disc of German organ music and not include Bach. I would have at least liked a mention of Eben in the liner notes. Though other significant Czech composers of the 20th century composed a number of strong organ works (Miloslav Kabelá? and Václav Nelhýbel come to mind immediately), Eben’s omission is the most severe.
The large, symphonically scoped organ of England’s Norwich Cathedral suits the repertoire very well. Most of these works have not been previously recorded on CD, and while none is a revelatory masterpiece, they are not unpleasant to hear. Iain Quinn’s performances seem ideal, and Chandos’s sound is clear and resonant.
FANFARE: Carson Cooman
Works on This Recording
Vigilia by Bohuslav Martinu
Iain Quinn (Organ)
Period: 20th Century
Written: 1959; Switzerland
Length: 7 Minutes 21 Secs.
Fugue in G minor by Antonín Dvorák
Iain Quinn (Organ)
Length: 3 Minutes 9 Secs.
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