Notes and Editorial Reviews
This is a hybrid Super Audio CD playable on both regular and Super Audio CD players.
A splendid mix of the structure of Bach and the exuberance of the French romantic organ.
Passacaglia in c,
Sinfonia in D,
Chaconne in d,
Hansjörg Albrecht (org)
OEHMS 634 (SACD: 73:41)
Many of the early 19th-century composers—Mendelssohn, Schumann, Liszt—became obsessed with understanding and re-creating the genius they found in Bach’s music. This continued into the 20th century with Reger, Busoni, D’Albert, Catoire, Rachmaninoff, Godowsky, Stokowski, and numerous others in various different guises—for piano, piano four-hands, orchestra, whatever combination worked for the particular transcriber. The question of whether transcription is a valid art form has been discussed many times. The question that arises, though, is what does the transcribing of material do for us as listeners and as players? Does it teach us anything new? And does it work? In this case it certainly does.
The two transcriptions made by the organist himself, that of the second part of the
, are simple enough to follow in their almost literal re-creation of the original works. The opening of the
is as joyous and energetic as the orchestral work the original work re-creates on the solo keyboard. The slow movement that follows has a mysterious and haunting glow to it that to my ears sounds even more convincing on the organ, while the Presto finale has an almost magisterial quality to it, similar to the opening Sinfonia from the Cantata No. 29, itself a transcription of the prelude to the E-Major Violin Partita orchestrated by Bach himself. The French Suite, the longest work on the recital, is as dramatically conceived as any version for solo harpsichord or piano and perhaps gains in its intensity through this reimagining of sounds. Where it gains this intensity, however, it loses in playfulness in other ways, such as the heavy, almost plodding Courante and Passepieds. The version of the Chaconne is perhaps the most interesting transcription, as Albrecht uses the numerous stops on the newly built Muhleisen Organ of St. Paulus (Harsewinkel), building from the simplicity of the opening phrases through the more complex and impassioned variations that follow. At times his playing seems a bit too straightforward for this music, too matter-of-fact in certain instances when one begs for him to make the music breathe a little more than he allows it to. The Passacaglia is well played, but also suffers a bit from this lack of engagement; it is almost as though he thinks so highly of this music that he refuses to interpret it. Though the current release may seem an odd program on paper, it works. Whether the transcription is a valid art form is not for me to answer, but with as interesting transcriptions as the current recital has to offer, perhaps it shouldn’t matter anyway.
FANFARE: Scott Noriega
I have followed the organ recordings and arrangements of Hansjörg Albrecht on the - always excellent sounding - Oehms SACDs with varying enthusiasm. The latest, which opens with the
Sinfonia in D for Organ and Orchestra might just be the best; it unequivocally rocks. S heard here in the orchestra-less transcription of Marcel Dupré.
It’s the third volume in Hansjörg Albrecht’s survey of the four work-groups titled
Clavier-Übung by Johann Sebastian Bach. Albrecht has already recorded the Goldberg Variations (technically
Clavier-Übung Part IV) and
Clavier-Übung Part III (a.k.a. the Organ Mass). This time he tackles
Clavier-Übung Part II, which contains the Italian Concerto BWV 971 and the French Overture BWV 831, both in Albrecht’s own arrangements for the organ - from the two manual harpsichord. He throws a few other goodies into the mix, like the above mentioned
Chaconne from the Partita for solo violin BWV 1004 (arr. Arno Landmann), and finally a piece actually written for the organ, the
Passacaglia BWV 582, one of my very favorite organ works. As curious a mix as this might seem on paper, it comes together marvelously well on the 1977 Muhleisen Organ of St. Paul (Harsewinkel).
As with transcriptions in general, the question here is not: ‘why would I want to hear the Chaconne on the organ?’ but instead: ‘is this music that sounds wonderful on the organ?’ But is this even an issue with Bach, a furiously productive transcriber himself, and no stranger turning violin pieces into organ pieces - most famously the Toccata & Fugue in d-minor BWV565? The answer is: “Nah…!” The
Chaconne sounds like a full-blown organ piece when you don’t think about its provenance; in this transcription the familiarity is a rather distant and strange, never immediate one. The
Sinfonia has all the romantic spunk that one might expect Dupré to imbue an organ-work with. The result is a splendid mix of the structure of Bach and the exuberance of the French romantic organ: César Franck-ish. The more straightforward transcriptions of the Italian Concerto and French Overture that make the heart of this disc are perfectly rousing in their lush grand-organic style. Only the
Passacaglia — a work I tend to be narrow and nitpicky about — has a few moments that I find too heavy … where the composition-machination doesn’t quite get into that ‘inherent-necessity /
perpetuüm mobile gear’, where its boots get stuck in the ground. But what a small (13-minute) quibble after 60 minutes of goodness.
-- Jens F. Laurson, MusicWeb International
Works on This Recording
Italian Concerto, BWV 971 by Johann Sebastian Bach
Hansjörg Albrecht (Organ)
Written: 1735; Leipzig, Germany
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