Monologe, op. 63 Book 1/1-4, Book 2/5-8, Book 3/6,7
Leicht ausführbare Vorspiele zu den gebräuchlichsten evangelischen Chorälen, op. 67/1–5,8–11,16,15–18,23,25,30,31,35
Variationen und Fuge über “Heil, unserm König, Heil,” WoO IV/7
Leicht ausführbares Präludium und Fuge, op. 56 Nr. 4
Kompositionen, op. 79b/5–7,10,12. Präludien und Fugen, op. 85/1,2,4
Gerhard Weinberger (org)
CPO 555 342–2 (2 SACDs: 128:31)
This double-SACD album is Volume 8 in Gerhard Weinberger’s Reger Organ Works series on CPO. By my reckoning, that makes it the final installment, although there is nothing in the publicity to say as much. The programming for this cycle has been eccentric, to say the least, with Weinberger dividing up the many large collections of short works and distributing them across several volumes. The reason for this appears to be that many different organs are used, and Weinberger presumably wishes to allocate the individual works as best suits the instruments. But the consequence for this final volume is that there is a lot of mopping up to do. Most of the works presented here are modest processionals and interludes for liturgical use, some Catholic (op. 63), some Protestant. Other works from the opp. 56 and 79b sets appeared on the previous release. But there, as in previous installments, Weinberger slotted those short works in as fillers behind more substantial concert pieces. This time round, it is just the small works. That makes for an agreeable consistency across the program, and keeps Reger’s megalomania at bay.
Disc 1 is recorded on the Walcker organ of the Lutherkirche in Wiesbaden. That was an important town in Reger’s life, but the instrument was built in 1911, after he lived there, so he probably would not have known it. Even so, the thinking behind this cycle has been to chose “historical instruments from Reger’s days,” and all have proved to be splendid. The organ is of medium size, with three manuals and a disposition that fits on one page of the liner. The size feels just right for these Monologues and Preludes. The most obvious competition is from Bernhard Buttmann on Ohms. He plays these works on a larger organ, which can sometimes feel constrained and underused. Weinberger, by contrast, seems to approach the capacity of his instrument. Also, the recorded sound is closer, with less reverberance than for Buttmann, which gives the overall sound profile a straightforward, no-nonsense character. There is still warmth, but everything is within the modest scale of the music. The first disc closes with an oddity, the Variations and Fugue on “Heil, unserm König,” i.e., “God Save the King,” i.e., “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee.” At the time—1901—it was assumed the work had been written to commemorate the death of Queen Victoria, but it was written earlier. Reger wrote that the piece is as easy as possible, in order to appeal to organists with “weak technique.” Here, and throughout the program, Weinberger uses the straightforward textures to display the range of tone colors at his disposal. And in this work, the recognizability of the melody allows us to hear Reger’s contrapuntal working with unusual clarity.
Disc 2 is recorded on the Jehmlich organ at the Stadtkirche, Pößneck in Thuringia. This instrument is about the same size, but the church is smaller. A photograph in the liner shows an ornate organ case with filigreed pillars, almost touching the flat ceiling above. Again, the program is made up of short works for Protestant liturgy. The most substantial pieces are the three preludes and fugues from op. 85. Weinberger selects airy, open-sounding stops here, and provides much variety though his range of dynamics. The first prelude begins particularly quietly, and the music often returns to this level. You might need to raise the volume occasionally, but these quiet passages are particularly lovely.
As usual, CPO provides full organ registrations and extensive liner notes, on both the organs and the works, well translated for the most part. Given Weinberger’s choice of instruments, this deserves to be considered a period-performance cycle of Reger’s music. The difference that makes is slight in most volumes, but in this, presumably, final installment, the modest scale of the organs employed is an interesting and attractive feature.
This review appears in Fanfare magazine issue 46:3.
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