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Reviews: Harmonies, Orgel Modern - Martin Haselböck

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Reviews: 3

Review by Stanbury June 12, 2008 (4 of 5 found this review helpful)
Sonics:    
This disk is a collection of organ pieces, all of which were composed after 1960. The music is very "modern", lacking obvious melody, harmony, or rhythm. Some pieces are very quiet, some quite loud, and some explore the limits of dynamic contrast. I never knew that an organ could make some of the sounds heard on this disk. The organ was built in 2001 for the Warsaw Philharmonic and is described in loving detail in the enclosed 75-page booklet. I am hardly qualified to rate the performance, but the sonics are quite impressive, both in stereo and multichannel.

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Review by Fugue January 2, 2010 (3 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
Yeah, this is one mind-blowing recording! I don't think I've ever heard such frightening sounds as this man can conjure from a pipe organ! I'm not a big fan of Ligeti's Two Etudes, but I love the other pieces, especially the Halffter Ricercare. There are some sustained low pedal tones that had every loose item in my living room vibrating like crazy! This is not for the faint of heart, that's for sure, but I can recommend it solidly for its sonic qualities. Whew...

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Review by Beagle January 14, 2010 (3 of 3 found this review helpful)
Performance:   Sonics:  
OFF-THE-CUFF REVIEW No. 3

The Signal
I waffled back and forth for years before giving Purism a deservèd kick and adding a Paradigm ‘power bass’ to my pair of Paradigm speakers (they don’t call it a ‘sub-woofer’, that would be sub-dig!). The movies that I play through my system all make excessive use of low-frequency to ‘sex up’ limp film scripts. But in an audiophile recording such as this, palpable bass is quintessential to full-range listening; I can’t imagine enjoying this disc without it. It will be a test to your system (and your hearing) to perceive both the visceral 32-footers below and the airy flute-trebles above. Needless to say, the Schuke-Konzertsallorgel and her builder (Karl Schuke) deserve as much credit here as the Martin Haselböck, the sundry composers and the aptly-named recording engineer, Gregor van der Boom*….

The Software
Krenek’s ‘Four Winds’ is a bit edgy but not as irritating as his chamber works; his métier is not atonal, but rather tonal resources assembled aggressively. ‘Euros’ sounds like a musical anagram of a Liszt ‘Dies Irae’ (perhaps ‘Ire Ideas’?). His second wind, ‘Notos’, starts off blowing as a gentle southerly, but runs into more turbulence; this movement seems to be a recycling of three canons – and is not surprisingly ‘a mixed bag’ of wind. ‘Zephyros’ is a bit spring-like, with scattered but icy showers. His last wind, ‘Boreas’, loudly fulfills Jeremiah's prophecy that ‘Out of the North evil will come’ – and then congeals into quiet snowflakes (but not for long). Like Oskar-kind in Grass’s ‘Tin Drum’, Krenek solicits attention by making a big noise, again and again. The program for the order of works on this disc is apparently guided by the principle of ‘Tackle the Difficult Bits First’, aka ‘No-one Walks Out During the First Act’.

After Krenek, Ligeti can be mistaken for silence itself; if you’ve turned the volume down during the Krenek, you may think your player has blown a fuse. Étude I is indeed very reminiscent of the mind-blowing moments in Stanley Kubrik’s ‘2001: Space Odyssey’. Ligeti does what all Moderns do with the high-pitched wispy flute-pipes, but he did it first and does it best, evoking bells, voices, whale-song… lovely stuff, I wish it would go on forever (and it almost does: 11:40). Étude II is almost neo-classical, evoking 17th C. harpsichord – but swept heavens-ward in apocalyptic Rapture. All is not peace and light, satanic pedal underpins the soul’s upward strivings. It’s a fast elevator, taking only 3:33 to reach the Omega Point (666's better half?).

The wife and I are both avid fans of Cristóbal Halffter. His ‘Ricercare’ here takes up the strains very much where Ligeti leaves them: gentle and aetherial. But as is appropriate to ricercare form, the musical fabric is much more rich and varied. Like Krenek, Halffter sits down at the organ and says ‘Okay, let’s see what this baby can do…’ – but tastefully: there’s a bit of heavy breathing during the climax, but no organ damage.

Schnittke, at least for me, is always enjoyable; it is no wonder that he has been commissioned to write so many film scores. His mannerisms give his works an individual character, like a broken nose on a friend’s face, and his penchant for pastiche lends humour to what might otherwise be mere intellectualism.

‘Andromeda’ by Zsolt Durko (born in the same year as Schnittke) meshes almost seamlessly with Schnittke’s work (written in the same year): other than the ill-conceived Krenek-for-starters, the programming of works on this disc is commendable and enjoyable.

Rainer Bischof (born in the same year as yours-truly) begins his ‘Cadenza’ in near silence, then works through many of the same changes on the Schuke-Konzertsallorgel as the others, but with restraint and art.

The Stratagem
If you wish to indulge your sensuous side: get this disc, pour yourself a glass of something expensive, turn the lights down low – and skip to Track Number Five (I suspect only poseurs and the permanently-angry will claim to enjoy Krenek).
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* Likewise, assistant engineer Claudia Reske.

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