Heidrun Hensel is a former student of Klemens Schnorr in Munich and is highly active, not just as an organist, but also as a harpsichordist and continuo player with various groups. Here she presents a programme “tracing the Italian style in Bavaria” on the small Ahrend organ in Landshut. About the organ we learn little, not even the specification, which is a shame. Although clearly an organ by the great master organ-builder of his generation, Hensel does note that his style is slightly adapted to the Southern German Catholic sound-world through the use of “gentle, singing Italianate Principals with a relatively expansive range of sounds.” One of the most charming of these is the Voce Umana - or perhaps it’s a Piffaro? - so present in theRead more ‘All’Elevazione’ of Zipoli – I haven’t come across one of these on an Ahrend instrument and it is, predictably enough, a beauty.
Hensel’s programme contains little truly idiomatic organ music. Most of it is manualiter, and much was probably intended for the harpsichord. This is fine and I don’t intend it as an implied criticism. None of the music sounds out of place, and Hensel’s playing is, without exception, neat, tidy, well controlled and featuring a beautiful touch. What I miss is on the one hand a little freedom, especially in the rather wooden Toccata Duodecima of Muffat, where the contrast between ‘real’ contrapuntal writing and free invention should surely be honoured in a more dynamic way, and on the other a certain ‘organic’ vocabulary of expression through articulation. This is especially prevalent in the slower movements of the concertos, both of which feature repeated chordal accompaniments, and both of which receive, as a result of Hensel’s approach, very equal accents. On the other hand her sense of intimate atmosphere in the Froberger Lamento for example is spot-on. It is also good to hear the music of the much-travelled Domenico Zipoli. These miniatures by him are so seldom played and yet contain so much good humour.
The booklet contains a slightly superficial interview with the performer, though it is interesting to get some insights into her approach to the music. It is a shame that as well as the lack of the information about the instrument, there is no explicit information about the music. On the other hand, the repertoire is relatively unusual, and the quality of Jürgen Ahrend’s instrument ensures that the ear never tires.