Author Topic: "New" Music Log  (Read 100706 times)

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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #180 on: October 23, 2010, 02:11:05 PM »


For my first purposeful foray into solo organ music, I decided to start with Maurice Duruflé’s complete works.  They all fit nicely onto a single disc, in this case the CPO recording of one Friedhelm Flamme playing on the Mühleisen Organ.  It seems I found a good place to start.  The music is all easily accessible.  Nothing is too stern or hard or stereotypically organ-y (by which I mean uncompromisingly religious and heavy).  Indeed, the sound world is a rather dreamy, romantic one.  There’s a warmth and beauty to the music that makes one want to simply sit and listen to the music.  That’s what I did.  I can’t say that I have a favorite work on the disc; I enjoy them all. 

Mr Flamme’s playing strikes me as rather impressive.  The registration produces some intriguing sounds, and the recorded sound is superb, with plenty of color and room energizing bass.  I cannot say that this disc makes me want to listen to nothing but organ music, nor do I think the organ will supplant the piano in my listening, but it got me off to a nice start.  New wonders await, I’m sure of it.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #181 on: October 31, 2010, 06:29:07 PM »


Jordi Savall and crew have done it again, this time introducing me to the music of one William Lawes, a 17th Century English composer of some note.  So noteworthy was he that he apparently earned the nickname “Father of Musick.”  I don’t know if I’d say he’s quite that good, but his music is quite nice in a mid-1600s English sort of way.  First things first, the music displays a high degree of craftsmanship and not a little contrapuntal mastery.  Second, the music is surprisingly languid, at least as performed here, belying the rather turbulent times in which the music was written.  (Lawes bought the farm during the Civil War, so he was no stranger to the danger of the time.)  The small ensembles are meticulously blended while allowing each instrumental voice a bit of breathing room.  This is intimate music to be cherished.  Third, the sound is top flight, as is to be expected from this source.

All told, this is a very fine twofer.  I confess that I prefer the similar type of music from Marin Marais, who is more refined and opulent, but Mr Lawes makes a most welcome addition to my collection.


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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #182 on: November 05, 2010, 09:45:56 AM »



I’ve never quite warmed up to the music of Max Reger.  Granted, I’ve not listened to a lot of it, but it’s fair to say that I’ve noticed a few recurring traits in his music.  First, his music strikes me as painstakingly crafted, with each note in its proper place.  As an exercise in compositional meticulousness it is impressive, but as a more, um, musical, experience, it’s a bit less impressive.  Second, the dude knows how to write a fugue.  Really, he’s right up there with the best, you know, Bach and Beethoven.  Well, maybe not quite that good, but darned close.

As part of my initial explorations of organ music, I figured I should at least give Reger a shot, particularly considering the man wrote a good amount of music for the instrument.  I must say that the traits described above once again shine through.  Every work on this ninth volume is pretty much what I would have expected, just for the organ rather than another instrument or ensemble.  The variations on God Save the King sound interesting, if not especially compelling.  The excerpts from Op 65 are very serious and formal, but not especially ear tingling.  The Chorale Preludes are a bit more interesting, but again retain a certain stiff formality.  The closing Chorale Fantasia is a masterful fugue, to be sure, and while at times it is intriguing to follow the musical lines, it just didn’t get my musical juices flowing.  None of the music is bad, it’s just not my thing.

Josef Still sure sounds like he knows how to play the organ quite well, the instrument sounds nice enough, and the sound is none too shabby.  Still, I can’t say this makes me want to rush out to buy a lot more of Reger’s music.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #183 on: November 21, 2010, 11:39:18 AM »


Next up in my exploration of organ music is a disc of works by Charles-Marie Widor.  There’s a decent selection of recordings out there, so I somewhat randomly settled on this sixth volume of the complete works on MDG.  The organist is Ben van Oosten, and he plays the Cavaillé-Coll organ in Saint-Sernin, in Toulouse.  The works on the disc are the Romane Symphony and the Suite Latine.

If the symphony is meant to sound like a romantic symphony transcribed for organ, it works.  The formal four movement structure has all the elements one might associate with a work of a French composer inspired by the model of Schumann.  In addition to the “symphonic” structure, the organ as played and recorded, offers a superb range of sound, credibly approximating strings and winds, indeed, the whole shebang.  That written, the work is a bit on the slow side, and it did hold my attention quite as effectively as Durufle’s works.  The suite is similar, though here, in the nature of a suite, the movements are more varied and seemingly unconnected.  Of special interest for me are the nicely severe Lamento and the Ave Maria Stella, which at times reminds me of Bruckner transcribed for the organ.  Not bad, not bad at all.

Oosten’s playing and sound are both quite fine, and there’s a decent chance I may sample more music by Widor in the future. 

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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #184 on: November 27, 2010, 04:37:21 PM »



Not having any Giovanni Pergolesi in my collection, it seemed almost a no-brainer to try the new budget three disc set of Pergolesi’s music conducted by Claudio Abbado.  The set comprises all three recent releases by the now aged maestro and the Orchestra Mozart, yet another new, young (and period) ensemble he has helped to build.  The works included in the set are all liturgical, save the Violin Concerto with Giuliano Carmignola as the soloist.  The set opens with a very nice Stabat Mater.  There’s much to enjoy in this Baroque meets Classical work, but I have to say it just didn’t catch my fancy like, say, Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater.  The Violin Concerto follows, and it, too, is a nice enough work.  The first of three (!) Salve Reginas concludes the first disc, and again, it’s quite pleasant.  Nothing earth-shaking, nothing profound.

Then I listened to the second disc.  It opens with a brilliant missa brevis, the Missa S. Emidio, inspired by, apparently, a trembler that struck Naples.  It’s a corker!  Though written around the time Haydn was born, it sounds like a prototype for all Classical era liturgical works, only it’s better than more than a few similar works.  The melodies are captivating from start to finish, the use of the larger forces compelling as can be.  Though short, it packs a wallop.  It’s much my favorite work in the set.  It even sounds in parts like it inspired Mozart, by which I mean it sounds like Mozart may have stole some ideas.  The second Salve Regina follows, with Sara Mingardo the soloist, and it is in a different category than the first one.  The music is more compelling and the soloist a bit better.  A couple lesser works fill out the disc, though they are both executed in most musical fashion. 

The third disc is much like the first in that it has multiple liturgical works, and most of them are quite nice, if not especially noteworthy.  The concluding Dixit Dominus is, for me, the best of the lot. 

So, a nice enough mixed bag, with two fine works, one of them a great, or near great work.  Abbado and crew all perform quite well, which is no surprise, and the sound quality is high grade indeed.  All this and it comes in DG’s new, lush Prestige Edition packaging, for those who care about such things. 



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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #185 on: December 08, 2010, 03:10:17 PM »
   



About two discs into Helmut Walcha’s set devoted to most of Bach’s organ music it became clear that I would need another set to compare it to.  Walcha’s interpretations didn’t seem to lack for much, it was just so obvious that I had hit upon the apex of organ music that I figured additional interpretations were needed.  I took the easy way out and opted for another substantial box set, in the form of Simon Preston’s slightly more comprehensive set from the 80s through the end of the last century.

Bach has long been one of my favorite composers, as he seems to be for most classical fans, and he is usually at or near the summit of every genre in which he wrote.  (Quick, name another composer who wrote better music for solo violin or cello.)  In keyboard music he’s in the same realm as Beethoven and Debussy for me.  In liturgical music he’s up there with Morales, Palestrina, Haydn, and Mozart.  But in organ music, based on what I have heard thus far (not all of which I have written about), he stands alone.  He is to the organ what Scarlatti is to the harpsichord or Chopin is to the piano when it comes to writing ‘naturally’ for the instrument, and his musical sensibilities are timeless and well nigh perfect.  This is not too surprising.

Working through both sets it became clear that my two favorite sets of works are the Trio Sonatas and the Organ Mass, and they are of course quite different.  The Trio Sonatas are lighter and more purely entertaining.  Both organists play superbly, but my preference here is for Preston, who plays with more verve and freedom.  The great Organ Mass, though, demands the serious mien and impeccable taste of Walcha, who delivers a performance that left me mesmerized.  Most of the rest of the works being Preludes, Toccatas, Fugues, and Chorales, and various combinations thereof, it’s hard to pinpoint this or that specific work and say that it is better than the others, or that Walcha surpasses Preston, or vice versa.  That written, the works are not of uniform quality – some are merely astounding while others are stupefyingly great.  To my ears, Walcha delivers the better overall set, playing more seriously and with more attention to form, though Preston’s more staccato heavy style and greater rhythmic variegation offers different rewards.  Sonically, both sets are quite good, though Preston’s much more recent set is in better sound, and definitely delivers more in the low frequencies.  Still, it’s surprising that Walcha’s set holds up as well as it does; the 1956 stereo recordings are really quite amazing sounding. 

So far, for me, the only composer who is anywhere near the same level is Olivier Messiean, and his music is, um, rather different in style.  Looks like Bach is the man in organ music.

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Offline Opus106

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #186 on: December 09, 2010, 12:06:40 AM »
Most of the rest of the works being Preludes, Toccatas, Fugues, and Chorales, and various combinations thereof, it’s hard to pinpoint this or that specific work and say that it is better than the others

I hope you don't mean to include the Passacaglia in C minor, BWV 582, in such a list of sundry works.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #187 on: December 10, 2010, 09:25:41 AM »



For some reason I just never got around to listening to Vagn Holmboe’s music.  I figured it was time to rectify that, so I decided to buy the Dacapo recording of the four Sinfonias for string orchestra, which when combined in a specific order become Chairos.  I’m not sure this was the best way to get to know Holmboe’s music.

The four works, ranging between ten and twenty minutes each, all sound quite similar.  Using only strings limits what the music can do, and while Holmboe is quite adept at solo writing, throwing in a nifty pizzicato, writing some nicely dissonant music for the upper strings and heavy and ominous music for the lower strings, it all ends up sounding pretty much the same; it becomes tedious to listen to.  None of the works are bad, but neither are they especially compelling.  When rearranged into Chairos, the same thing holds true, but for over an hour.  It’s a pretty hard slog.  I don’t see myself listening to this music too terribly much going forward, by which I mean I probably won’t listen to it again.

Sound and playing are extremely fine.  If only the music were more compelling.  And why, I wonder, did Dacapo decide to release this as a twofer, one disc with the sinfonias, and one disc with Chairos?  The tracks could simply have been programmed to play the bigger work.


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Offline Archaic Torso of Apollo

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #188 on: December 10, 2010, 12:37:13 PM »
  None of the works are bad, but neither are they especially compelling. 

That has largely been my experience with Holmboe. However, I do think the 8th Symphony is quite a powerful score, and would suggest you try it out if you're willing to give him another chance.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #189 on: December 19, 2010, 08:26:36 AM »



Late Romantic French organ music.  Now that I gotta hear.  Since Jeremy Filsell’s recording of Louis Vierne’s complete Organ Symphonies is now available on the cheap on Brilliant Classics, I figured it was worth a shot.  There are certainly some nice things here, and some things not so nice.  Nice things first.  These works do indeed sound like large scale symphonies transcribed for organ.  The lovely instrument produces a tantalizingly wide array of sounds, credibly (in so far as is possible) imitating orchestral sections.  There’s a romantic sweep to much of the music.  One is reminded more of (laid back) Brahms or Schumann or Magnard than music from earlier periods, let alone later periods.  I cannot say that one work really stood out for me, but all are nice enough.

But, I must say that two things detracted from the set for me, and one may be the cause of the other.  The symphonies all sounds a bit too much alike and it’s not particularly energetic much of the time.  It’s lovely, but it can sound like sonic wallpaper.  This may be because of the way it was recorded.  I’ve heard relatively dry, close organ recordings, and more distant recordings, and I tend to prefer slightly more distant recordings, but this one takes things to extremes.  It sounds like the microphones were placed as far away from the instrument as possible, with the engineers adding extra reverb for good measure.  Some of the decays at the end of movements seem to take several minutes.  (I exaggerate, yes, but not as much as the statement implies.)  Too, there is way too much hall noise.  And it’s of the low frequency, hear everything in the cathedral variety.  It detracts from the proceedings.  Everything sounds mushy and too blended together.  I suspect this interferes with the music. 

Anyway, this set is not a great success, but I may end up investigating another recording of some of the music.  Something rather good is there.

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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #190 on: December 30, 2010, 10:33:22 AM »



It just seems to make sense that Brahms would write good organ music.  His absolute mastery of form, his unyielding seriousness, his devout dedication to music of days past (while still being innovative): Yep, he seems a good fit.  And so he is.  The works may be few in number, but they are of high quality.  The influence of Bach seems present quite a bit, but there’s more there than that.  I was continually reminded of the opening movement of the First Symphony at times, not because the organ music sounds anything like it, but because there is that same forceful, forward moving, inevitable drive to a good portion of it.  Some of the music is rather attractive, thankfully, and the fugues are written at a Bachian level it seems to me.  I cannot say that I like Brahms as much as Bach in organ music, but he’s the best of the romantic era composers I’ve heard thus far.

Rudolf Innig’s playing strikes me as superb, though I don’t have anything to compare it to.  Sound is just about perfect.  The perspective is neither too close nor too far, which allows the full scale of the music and instrument to be captured (well, to an extent, I guess), the timber sounds natural, and the low frequencies pack a wallop without overpowering the rest of the music.  A rather nice disc.
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Offline Dancing Divertimentian

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #191 on: December 30, 2010, 06:31:08 PM »
*Hmmm...scratching chin...mulling over*
Veit Bach-a baker who found his greatest pleasure in a little cittern which he took with him even into the mill and played while the grinding was going on. In this way he had a chance to have the rhythm drilled into him. And this was the beginning of a musical inclination in his descendants. JS Bach

Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #192 on: January 01, 2011, 02:15:48 PM »



Generally speaking, I’m a fan of Olivier Messiaen’s music, but unlike with many other composers, I have to be in the right mood to listen to his music.  (This is not the case, with, say, Mozart or Debussy.)  The length, the scale, the droning: it can be too much at times.  But at other times it hits the spot.  Knowing that Messiaen was an organist, and that he composed for the instrument over decades, I figured I get a nice overview of his composing career, but that it might take me a while to listen to all of it.  I was half right. 

The works do seem to reflect his career as a whole, with some of the earlier works easily accessible, and some of the later works long and harder to get into.  I started with the Prélude, and was greeted with a wash of color and sound.  I’m not sure what end the music has, but I was hooked then and there.  I jumped around the set, though I left the dense Livre d’orgue and the long Livre du Saint Sacrement until the end.  No other composer creates the sounds Messiaen does, with only Marcel Dupré offering something close.  At times it seems as though Messiaen just wanted to create novel sounds.  A few of the pieces also exploit the ability of the organ to holds notes for extended periods, with some notes and chords stretching on for crazy long periods of time.  Yes, there is droning, and yes, some of the pieces seem to go on and on, but in most cases his organ music displays that same giddy ecstasy that many of his other pieces display, and that makes it hard to stop listening.  His organ music is certainly unique, and thus far only Bach readily surpasses Messiaen’s output for me.  I listened to entire set in barely a week the first time through; I couldn’t wait to hear what came next.

Olivier Latry plays splendidly throughout, and the Notre Dame organ is one of the most glorious sounding I’ve yet encountered.  Great stuff.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #193 on: January 18, 2011, 09:01:04 AM »
 


Marcel Dupré wrote a whole lot of organ music, so I figured I should try some.  Naxos and MDG are both recording his entire output, but here I decided that Naxos had the advantage because of the nice low price (about $7 a disc, shipping included, at Amazon Marketplace).  I really just picked two discs at random, having little idea what to expect.

What I got was some virtuoso organ music with plusses and minuses.  The plusses first: Dupré could play the instrument well, and he could write for it well.  There are many moments on both discs where the instrument and artist produce some unique and captivating sounds.  Dupré was not afraid to exploit the extremes of the instrument, and the combinations of sounds that it could produce.  (One can detect more than a whiff of Dupré’s influence in Messiaen’s organ music.)  Some of the passages possess dazzling output from the manuals and the pedals.  Dupré even managed to write an interesting set of variations on Adeste Fidelis (aka, O Come All Ye Faithful), which appears on volume four. 

Now the minuses.  The music can blend together if taken in large doses.  For me, particularly on the second run-through, the music started to become a sort of sonic wallpaper.  It’s lovely and accomplished, but it just doesn’t grab my attention as fully as, say, Bach’s organ music.  Really, that’s the only musical minus.  The other minus has more to with the sound of both recordings, which while not bad, is a bit distant and tends to add to the sonic wallpaper effect. 

The playing from both artists is quite good, and the instruments sound quite fine, though I could have done with better recordings.  I’ll be sampling more of Dupré’s organ music, but at this point he’s not quite up there with the best for me.
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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #194 on: January 19, 2011, 01:18:41 PM »
Why is everybody talking about organ works?

Offline Lethevich

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #195 on: January 19, 2011, 06:13:15 PM »
If you want something a little different from Dupré, try vol.3 in the Naxos series (works for organ and orchestra) - it's rather more lively than much of Dupré's organ output, which is largely funtional, meditative music based around chorales and such.
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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #196 on: February 06, 2011, 10:38:24 AM »



Why not?  I found Rudolf Innig’s traversal of all of Mendelssohn’s organ works for a pittance (around $20), Innig delivered a fine disc of Bach’s organ music, and I do enjoy a bit of Mendelssohn’s music from time to time, so it seemed safe enough to splurge.   

First things first, this is apparently a really complete set, with the final version of the six organ sonatas and the early versions of the same works.  Throw in a couple discs of fragments and short works, and this set appears to contain every last note Mendelssohn wrote for organ.   

Second things second, Mendelssohn was not really a great composer for the organ.  His six sonatas are quite enjoyable, but they also strike me as somewhat lightweight and, if not forgettable, they do not stay with one like, say, Bach’s music for the same instrument.  I found the early versions of the sonatas entirely dispensable, and doubt I will spend much time listening to them again, and only a handful of the smaller works really caught my attention, most particularly the striking Allegro in D minor.  I will say that almost all of the works sound fluid and graceful and definitely have a Mendelssohn sound, as it were. 

Rudolf Innig plays splendidly throughout, and the sound is quite good.  I’ll probably explore an additional version or two of the organ sonatas, but for the most part Mendelssohn’s organ music presents a case where a complete set is not needed one bit.



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Offline Todd

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #197 on: February 15, 2011, 08:24:33 AM »
   


Holy crap!  Does Bach have a rival in the realm of organ music?  Well, maybe.  I’d read that even Bach himself made it a point to hoof a pretty great distance to hear Dietrich Buxtehude in person, and after listening to two sets of the complete organ works of the Northern European master (Is he Danish? Is he German?  Who cares?), I can hear why.  That I ended up listening to two sets rather than one indicates that, for me at least, Buxtehude’s got it; much as with Bach, I determined very early on that one set just would not do.  The music is so good and so diverse that I had to hear more than one take. 

Anyway, whereas Bach’s organ music for me represents formal perfection, Buxtehude’s music seems a bit more lively and unpredictable, almost as though the composer wrote down and refined improvisations after he played them.  I doubt that’s the case, but whatever the case, there’s a freedom and exuberance to much of the music.  With gobs of smaller works and pretty much no big ones, it’s fun to listen to Buxtehude just simply because one needn’t wait long for a different piece written for a different purpose.  The music can be somber at times, devout at others, and is almost always colorful, and it’s always original and energetic.  It’s quite easy to hear Buxtehude’s influence in Bach’s music.  Ultimately, Bach is still the greater organ composer, and his works do strike me as more “perfect,” but it’s clear that there is at least one other super-heavyweight in this arena.

The two sets are both rather long in the tooth now.  The Kraft set is from the 50s and shows its age.  There is some distortion, some instances of tape damage, and some pretty heavy-handed edits.  Walter Kraft’s playing is very serious, a bit leaden here and there, but is generally excellent.  The organ sounds pretty good, but it cannot compare to the roughly contemporaneous Bach recordings of Helmut Walcha.  René Saorgin’s set for Harmonia Mundi is from the 60s, is in better sound, and uses different instruments throughout.  All of them sound fantastic, and the most ancient of all, from the 15th Century, is a charmer.  Saorgin’s playing is a bit smaller in scale than Kraft’s, but it’s also freer rhythmically and makes the music sound more improvisatory.  I prefer the Saorgin, though I do enjoy the Kraft.  One thing is for certain, I will be sampling more Buxtehude.
« Last Edit: February 15, 2011, 11:30:12 AM by Todd »
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Offline The new erato

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #198 on: February 15, 2011, 08:54:45 AM »
Or Swedish - as he was born in what today is Sweden, but was then a part of Denmark.

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Re: "New" Music Log
« Reply #199 on: February 15, 2011, 11:10:33 AM »
   


Holy crap!  Does Bach have a rival in the realm of organ music?  Well, maybe.  I’d read that even Bach himself made it a point to hoof a pretty great distance to hear Dietrich Buxtehude in person, and after listening to two sets of the complete organ works of the Northern European master (Is he Danish? Is he German?  Who cares?), I can hear why.  That I ended up listening to two sets rather than one indicates that, for me at least, Buxtehude’s got it; much as with Bach, I determined very early on that one set just would not do.  The music is so good and so diverse that I had to hear more than one take. 

Anyway, whereas Bach’s organ for me represents formal perfection, Buxtehude’s music seems a bit more lively and unpredictable, almost as though the composer wrote down and refined improvisations after he played them.  I doubt that’s the case, but whatever the case, there’s a freedom and exuberance to much of the music.  With gobs of smaller works and pretty much no big ones, it’s fun to listen to Buxtehude just simply because one needn’t wait long for a different piece written for a different purpose.  The music can be somber at times, devout at others, and is almost always colorful, and it’s always original and energetic.  It’s quite easy to hear Buxtehude’s influence in Bach’s music.  Ultimately, Bach is still the greater organ composer, and his works do strike me as more “perfect,” but it’s clear that there is at least one other super-heavyweight in this arena.

The two sets are both rather long in the tooth now.  The Kraft set is from the 50s and shows its age.  There is some distortion, some instances of tape damage, and some pretty heavy-handed edits.  Walter Kraft’s playing is very serious, a bit leaden here and there, but is generally excellent.  The organ sounds pretty good, but it cannot compare to the roughly contemporaneous Bach recordings of Helmut Walcha.  René Saorgin’s set for Harmonia Mundi is from the 60s, is in better sound, and uses different instruments throughout.  All of them sound fantastic, and the most ancient of all, from the 15th Century, is a charmer.  Saorgin’s playing is a bit smaller in scale than Kraft’s, but it’s also freer rhythmically and makes the music sound more improvisatory.  I prefer the Saorgin, though I do enjoy the Kraft.  One thing is for certain, I will be sampling more Buxtehude.

I also prefer Saorgin to Kraft.  Concerning sampling more Buxtehude, I'd be interested in your take on the Bryndorf series on DaCapo; she's much more celebratory than Saorgin (a good or bad feature depending on personal preferences).

One more thing.  I congratulate Todd for starting this thread and keeping up with it.  Also, congrats. to the membership here for respecting the thread and not trying to change its thrust or nature.