Thursday, December 1, 2016

Kuhnau, Johann. (1660-1722) Complete Organ Music. Part II.

New acquisition.
Bought in May 2015.
First listen: 4-6-2015.
Second listen: 1-12-2016.
Label: Brilliant.
CD 2 from 3.
Recording dates: May 2014.
Recording venue: Freiberger Dom & Marienkirche Rötha, Germany.
Recording engineer:Simone Bellucci.
Running time: 75:11.
Classical relevance: Essential.

Works performed:
Biblical Sonatas No. 5 & 6.
Prelude in B flat major, & G minor, D major, G major, C major, C minor, D minor, E minor.
Fugue in G minor.
Sonata in B flat major.
Fuga in C major.
Toccata in A major.

Works performed by:
Stefano Molardi.

Gottfried Silbermann organ (1714) Freiberg.
Gottfried Silbermann organ. (1722) Rotha.

Finally I would say, Johann Kuhnau's organ works completely recorded on three discs. A composer that always lived in the shadow of the great Bach, which is a pity really, for he is well up to what was composed before and during his career. He is a composer that embraced the various trends and musical inventions that developed in Europe between the end of the 17th and the beginning of the 18th century. Kuhnau was an expert organ tuner, testing Silbermann organs in Freiburg and Rotha, so it is very fitting that Stefano Molardi chose these instruments on all three cd's.  And despite his greatness and his artistic excellence, he had a hard time to sustain his integrity, when Telemann and Fasch pushed him out of business with the speed of lightning. Yet Kuhnau played a pivotal role in the evolution of music in central Germany, which is easily overlooked even to this day. There was a refinement in his melodies, and a friendly elegance in his narrative, that made it extremely hard not to like his music. And out of this was born the Biblische Sonaten,  6 of them, masterworks in which Kuhnau depicts biblical scenes from the old testament in such vivid and picturesque colours, that the scenes really translate themselves in a very natural way through his music. Stefano Molardi unlike in his complete recording of J.S. Bach's Organ works, found in Kuhnau the right amount of balance to create a very sophisticated, yet an almost daring approach towards the sonorities of this music, and where Kuhnau paints with its notes, Molardi gives full justice to the music by painting the compositions of Kuhnau on the organ, an organ Kuhnau's knew as no other. I would go so far as to say that there is a kind of symbiosis between composer and performer. Well, better I could not say it me thinks. A small matter of remark about both the Ciacona in F minor, and the Prelude in A minor, both remarkable and colour rich compositions, but boy the Ciacona is really played at a slow tempo, that despite the quality of the music, it almost falls apart, and the structural integrity is at question. Only due to Molardi's fabulous technique the music keeps a tiny amount of unity, but to my taste it's far too slow.
And finally I come to the recording. I have listened on my reference equipment, and found some odd anomalies which can only be explained by carelessness, deliberate or not, ( not likely) or by choice, which is hard to imagine, but which did disappoint me a little. I know the sound of this Silbermann organ in Freiburg very well, and was somewhat surprised to find that the first 3 sonatas sounded a bit muffled in the upper and lower region of the instrument. Sure there is ample detail, and it's not a bad recording, on the contrary, but I missed the lucidity of the instrument, which I heard in other recordings. But Lo and Behold, in the 4th Sonata this was suddenly corrected, the image lost its muffled veil, and I recognized the acoustics again, plus the sonorities of the organ. The last two pieces were recorded on the Silbermann organ in Rotha, and that sounded fine.
This however should not distract you from this fabulous interpretation, for that it is, but on the contrary you should get this box pronto. The price is low, and the chance of finding better interpretations at the moment is not likely to happen.

Graupner, Christoph. (1683-1760) Partitas for Harpsichord. Volume I.

New acquisition. Date of purchase: July 2017. First listen: 26-7-2017. Label: Analekta. Recording dates: September 2001. Recording v...