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"Orgeln in Sachsen, 4: Richter-Orgel in Pomssen" (Organs in Saxonia, 4: Richter organ in Pomssen)

Roland Börger, organ
rec: July 30 - August 1, 2007, Pomßen, Wehrkirche
Querstand - VKJK 0716 (© 2007) (75'03")

anon: Obra de falsas cromáticas de 1° tono; Francisco Correa DE ARAUXO (c1583-1654): Tiento de medio registro de dos tiples de 7° tono; Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750): Canzona in d minor (BWV 588); Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707): Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (BuxWV 223); Juan Bautista José CABANILLES (1644-1712): Corrente italiana; Andrea GABRIELI (1510-1586): Fantasia allegra; Francisco GUERAU (1649-1722): Canarios; Hans-Leo HASSLER (1574-1612): Ricercar del 2° tono; Zu dir steht all mein Sinn; Sebastián Aguilera DE HEREDIA (1561-1627): Obra de 8° tono alto Ensalada; Vincenzo PELLEGRINI (c1562-1630): Canzon La serpentina; Michael PRAETORIUS (1572-1621): Hymnus in festo nativitatis Christi A solis ortus cardine; Samuel SCHEIDT (1587-1654): Hymnus De Adventu Domini Veni Redemptor gentium (SSWV 149); Modus pleno Organo pedaliter Benedicamus (SSWV 158); Franz TUNDER (1614-1667): Praeludium in g minor

This disc was produced on the occasion of the renewed consecration of the organ of the Wehrkirche of Pomßen in Saxonia after its restoration. The organ was built in 1671 by Gottfried Richter. It is one of the oldest organs in Saxonia which is still in use. The case is built in the style of the renaissance and this is pretty much an indication of the character of the organ which is much older than one may expect on the basis of the year of construction.

The organ was finally inspected in March 1671 by Werner Fabricius, university music director and organist at the University and the Nikolaikirche in Leipzig. He "examined all the stops one after the other, and thoroughly inspected the pipes, the bellows and the whole corpus. He then pronounced his judgement in the following way: The instrument has been manufactured very well and efficiently and it could just as well be played in a royal chapel".

The extensive research before the restoration led to the conclusion that the sound concept of this organ reflects the time between renaissance and baroque and is especially suited to play early baroque music, not only from Germany, but from Italy and Spain as well. An important factor is the meantone temperament which leads to strongly expressive performances of the repertoire Roland Börger has chosen to present the organ. Another feature of this organ is the rather vocal character of its sound.

The organ music of Hans-Leo Hassler is not very well known. The Ricercar del 2° tono is a very expressive work in three sections. The ascending and descending semitone steps which dominate the work take profit from the meantone temperament. Also the second section is full of daring harmonies, and in the last section the rather gloomy character of this ricercare is even increasing. The disc opens with a transcription of a vocal piece, Zu dir steht all mein Sinn, by Hassler. Making such transcriptions was a very common practice around 1600. Börger has based his registration on the "wind music character of this work", as he puts it in the booklet. The vocal character of this organ's sound is very helpful here.

Next follow two examples of Italian music, by Andrea Gabrieli and Vincenzo Pellegrini. In the latter's Canon La serpentina a specific stop of the organ is used to good effect, the Vogelgesang (birdsong), underlining the playful character of this piece.

The next five pieces are by Spanish composers. The last, Canarios by Francisco Guerau, is in fact a piece for guitar, but it works quite well on the organ. This section of the programme begins with the Tiento de medio registro de dos tiples de 7° tono by Francisco Correa de Arauxo. Many Spanish organ works are written for medio registro, a manual split into two halves with their own registers. "The deepest tone of Pomssen's sesquialtera is a C sharp' which corresponds exactly to the scope and treble voice of Spanish organs the manual stops of which are traditionally partitioned between C' and C sharp' ", Börger writes. Here again the expression takes advantage of the meantone temperament which results in some very sharp dissonances. That is even more the case with the anonymous Obra de falsas cromáticas de 1° tono which is entirely made up of chromaticism and dissonances. The falsas are comparable with Italian pieces called durezze e ligature. De Heredia's Obra de 8° tono alto Ensalada is a kind of quodlibet which includes elements of the typical Spanish batalla.

The rest of the programme is devoted to repertoire from Germany. It begins with one of the very few organ pieces by Michael Praetorius which have been preserved, Hymnus in festo nativitatis Christi A solis ortus cardine (Christum wir sollen loben schon). The character of this work is very vocal, and that is also the case with Samuel Scheidt's Hymnus De Adventu Domini Veni Redemptor gentium (Nun komm, der Heiden Heiland). After the first versus the cantus firmus appears in soprano, alto, tenor and bass respectively in the four variations. Modo pleno Organo pedaliter Benedicamus by Scheidt is a transcription like the one which opened the disc.

Better known than the other works in the programme are the pieces by Franz Tunder, organist of the Marienkirche in Lübeck, and his successor Dietrich Buxtehude. In the latter's chorale fantasy Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern the organ's Zimbelstern is used, a stop which was common in German organs of the 17th and 18th century, and was considered specially suitable for feast days like Christmas.

The disc surprisingly ends with a piece by Bach which seems not very appropriate for this organ, considering its character and especially its tuning. The Canzona in d minor is included here on the basis of the assumption that Bach has been in Pomßen and may have known the organ which is not without foundation. But even if Bach didn't know this instrument is may be not as odd as it seems to play Bach on this organ as we don't know exactly how long meantone temperament was used in Bach's time and region.

The piece by Bach consists of two sections the first of which I think is played really too slow. But this is about the only critical remark I can make about this disc. This is a most intriguing organ with a captivating sound which really shines in this recording, also thanks to the favourable acoustical circumstances. Roland Börger plays very well, with much panache, and he fully explores the peculiarities of the various pieces he has chosen. Taking everything into consideration, the quality of the organ, the repertoire, the interpretation and the recording as well as the textbook which contains extensive notes about the music and the organ as well as the disposition and the registrations this disc is something no organ aficionado should miss.

Johan van Veen (© 2009)

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