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Brahms: Complete Organ Works - Schmeding

Brahms: Complete Organ Works - Schmeding

Ars Produktion  ARS 38 023

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Instrumental


Brahms: Präludium und Fuge a-Moll WoO 9, Choralvorspiel und Fuge über "O Traurigkeit, o Herzeleid", Fuge as-Moll WoO 8, Präludium und Fuge g-Moll WoO 10, Elf Choralvorspiele Op. posth.

Martin Schmeding (organ)

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Review by John Miller - April 7, 2009

Martin Schmeding plays all the extant organ works of Johannes Brahms on an 1884 Walcker of St Annenkirche, Annaberg-Buchholz in Saxony. This three-manual Late Romantic organ has been recently restored and the Ars engineers have made a very fine recording of it for this recital, placing the listener well back in the Gothic nave. Here, the speaking pipes are allowed to blend nicely but with sufficient detail to show off Schmeding's virtuoso passage work and reveal the inner voices of this essentially contrapuntal music. There is a very low noise floor.

Schmeding has carefully blended his registrations for these often deeply contemplative pieces by using stops which are mainly variants within a tonal family, and selected mainly 8' rather than 16' tone for the pedal accompaniments, thus balancing the sound effectively. However, he also allows the organ to show off impressively in the faster preludes and fugues with brilliant passage work and thunderous pedals, for example in the G minor Prelude and Fugue WoO 10 and the amazing Fugue in A flat minor WoO 8, dedicated "quite intentionally to my Clara" - Clara Schumann, of course.

Schmeding has the measure of Brahms' rhetoric. His tempi are mostly flowing and expressive, approximating those of the well-regarded Kevin Bowyer RBCD, where a similarly limited palette of tone colours is also generally used. Judging from his own extensive notes on each piece (in German and English), Schmeding has evidently thought deeply about this odd collection of works, most unpublished and the survivors of many composed early in Brahms' career as a Bach-lover. At this time he was under the influence of the Schumanns and Joachim as fellow Bach worshippers. Forty years after these early pieces, Brahms once more started to compose for the organ, completing his new set of 11 Choral Preludes after attending the funeral of Clara, his lifelong and probably unrequited love. They too are suffused with thoughts of death and loss and were only published after his own demise from liver cancer.

I commend this excellent production for its idiomatic and eloquent playing, recorded in impressive sound, especially in multichannel.

Copyright © 2009 John Miller and HRAudio.net

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