Oh mensch! Gib acht! - Friedrich, Küchler-Blessing

Oh mensch! Gib acht! - Friedrich, Küchler-Blessing

Ars Produktion  ARS 38 359

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Chamber

Works from Brahms, Szathmary, Mahler, Lombardi, Bruch, Müller-Wieland, Linke, Büsing

Reinhold Friedrich, Andre Schoch (trumpets)
Kristina Schoch (recorder)
Sebastian Küchler-Blessing (organ)

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Reviews (1)

Review by Adrian Quanjer - October 14, 2023

Though Friedrich Nitzsche‘s ‘Oh Mensch! Gib acht!’ (O Man! Be Aware!) is of all times, No one could have imagined today’s menacing developments in the Middle East at the time this release was recorded.

Text: … Ich schlief, ich schlief, Aus tiefem Traum bin ich erwacht: Die Welt ist tief, Und tiefer als der Tag gedacht. Tief ist ihr Weh Lust - tiefer noch als Herzeleid: Weh spricht: Vergeh! (In James Sandor’s free translation: I slept, I slept, I awoke from a deep dream: The world is profound, and deeper than the day has realized. Its misery is deep, Joy is deeper still than the heart's sorrow. Misery says: just die!).

According to the liner notes the idea of this recording dates back to the misery of the Covid pandemic, to be reassigned to the frightening Russian attack on Ukraine in 2022. No matter the occasion, this recording reminds us that mankind’s misery is indeed of all times.

The collection of works, chosen by one of Germany’s best trumpeters, Reinhold Friedrich, and Sebastian Küchler-Blessing, playing the recently built Rieger organ in the Cathedral of Essen, Germany, assisted by André (trumpet) and Kristina (recorder) Schoch, is one of bitterness, anguish, and reflection. Some of it is conceptually respectful to the listener's ears, whereas other parts of the programme resemble more of a distressing wake-up call. In essence, most life-like indeed. Is mankind its own worst enemy?

The organ in Essen’s Cathedral is a powerhouse, suitable to demonstrate the lowest registers of one’s playback system (Notably in track 3). Manfred Schumacher’s recording technique brings out its full, though carefully restrained bloom in Brahms’s ‘O Tod, wie bitter bist Du’ (O Death, How Bitter You Are) from ‘Four Serious Songs’, creating the perfect backdrop for Friedrich’s soaring trumpet to whine in sorrow.

The first wake-up call comes from Zsigmond Szathmary in his ‘… ad memoriam … ‘ (written as a commissioned work on the holocaust Memorial at the Brandenburger Gate in Berlin, Germany’s capital). The impact is as raw as the holocaust. There could hardly be a better dedicatee than Reinhold Friedrich to cry it out in anguish. A shock to the listener, who will find relief in the following third movement of Mahler’s Third Symphony ‘Oh Mensch! Gib Acht! In an arrangement for organ and trumpet (with a helping hand from Zsigmond Szathmary as a ‘terza mano’ for the orchestral tremolos). It gripes you by the throat in all its beauty.

For a good understanding of the importance of this recording, I ought to insert here a word about Sebastian Küchler-Blessing’s liner notes. They go far beyond what is normally included about the instruments (in this case all there is to know about the organ), the works played and the way it’s recorded. We get here a detailed historical essay that should be read to refresh our memory about the evil, hardship and calamity that mankind has and still does suffer from its own kind.

Further wake-up calls come from the modern compositions of Lombardi (organ and trumpet) and Müller-Wieland (Organ and two trumpets) using the technical means of the Rieger organ to give expression to the varying moods in both works, adding to the eerily shrieking high notes (Lombardi) and the shrillness (Müller-Wieland) of the trumpets expertly blown by Friedrich and Shoch. This is no easy listening. Perhaps better suited to the ears is Linke’s Santa Teresa, in which the delicate combination of organ, recorder and trumpet reminds us of the Theresienstadt concentration camp.

The two elements I would like to lift out are the world premiere recording of Otfried Büsing’s ‘Hevenu shalom aleichum’ consisting of four epigrams of Hebrew songs. It is a brand new (2022) composition for a tenor recorder and just the pedals of an organ. An unusual and intriguing combination paying tribute to Jewish life. And, of course, the fascinating arrangement for Flügelhorn and Organ of Max Bruch’s ‘Kol Nidrei’, in regard to the vows with their emotional undertones at the start of the evening service for Yom Kippur (the day of atonement) the holiest day of Judaism.

This gripping document is magnificently recorded by ARS Produktion. Be careful though with the volume setting, you might get blown away!

Full details of composers and musicians are given in the booklet.

Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France.

Copyright © 2023 Adrian Quanjer and


Sonics (Multichannel):

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