Current Issue

May 2018 - July 2018 (Number 384)

Issue 384 includes features on: as well as lots of news from the UK and abroad, reviews of choral and organ CDs, books, concerts, new organ music, new installations, letters, and more.

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Romantic Tendencies in 19th-century Organ Building in Europe

Michal Szostak

Before considering the more detailed characteristics of trends in organ building in the three main centres of the 19th-century Europe, I begin with a general outline on historical and cultural changes in the wider field of music during this period.

The nineteenth century is extremely diverse in its phenomena and tendencies, often marked by the coexistence of opposing currents. The French Revolution (1789-1799) and the so-called "Coalition Wars" (1799-1815) conducted against France under the rule of Napoleon Bonaparte (1769-1821) ploughed the social order of Europe and affected widely all aspects of life - not only for the inhabitants of the country on the Loire. The Congress of Vienna, convened in 1814-1815 to revise territorial and political changes, was to develop new principles of continental order.







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On recording the Christian Müller organ at Sint Bavokerk, Haarlem – some personal observations

Joseph Nolan

I am very pleased to have been invited to write about my experiences recording my tenth organ disc for Signum Records at St Bavo, Haarlem.

The history of the 1735-8 Christian Müller organ is very well documented in print and online, so I will focus on the choice of repertoire for the disk and my personal observations regarding the physicality of playing this historic instrument.

The recording nights were booked in for the 26th and 27th September 2017 with two earlier opportunities for rehearsal on the 24th and 25th September. Whilst waiting at the church entrance for the first rehearsal with my travelling companions, David and Fo Mason, we observed what a pretty city Haarlem is, with a bustling alfresco restaurant scene surrounding the Church.





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Some rarely-encountered 20th-century masterworks for organ by Shostakovich, Hindemith, Pärt and Anton Heiller

Iain Quinn

Dmitri-Shostakovich photo credit Deutsche Fotothek

The repertoire of Russian organ music is understandably smaller than many other countries because the instrument is not included in Orthodox liturgies. However, Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev attended the organ classes at the St. Petersburg Conservatory and there are many concert halls with organs.

The extant works by Russian composers begin with short fugues of Glinka and continue with pieces of Gliere, Glazunov, Gretchaninoff and, if harmonium repertoire is also considered, Cui, among the most prominent names in the larger musical world. In addition to the Passacaglia from the opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (1934), there are also two short organ pieces that Shostakovich (1906-1975) wrote for the film The Gadlfy (recorded on The Tsar of Instruments, Chandos). However, the Passacaglia was originally written to be performed at the end of the fourth scene of the second act of the opera, after the father-in-law she has just poisoned names Katerina Ismailova as a murderess. It portrays the psychological anguish that she succumbs to in an especially visceral musical evocation.

Photo courtesy Deutsche Fotothek



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Reformation in the land of Organs 1517—1618/1619

Professor Dr Fred Van Lieburg


“Travelling through the low countries by the sea, one sometimes thinks: The Netherlands … country of organs.” This is the way Mr. Arie Bouman (1911-1999) explained the title that he gave in 1964 to the third, totally reworked edition of his book about the rich inventory of organs in contemporary Netherlands. The first edition had appeared in 1943. In the back of his book he published a Land of Organs Map, consisting of a list of 389 pipe organs worthy of preservation, listed by province.

One can also arrange this chronologically by the year of construction. Leading the list then, obviously, is the Peter Gerritsz. organ from 1479, built for the Nicolai Church in Utrecht, from which it was removed in 1885, but which perhaps – if it is up to the National Monuments Agency – will be returned there at some point. Continuing, there appear to be barely a dozen organs remaining which were built in the late fifteenth and sixteenth century, and from the seventeenth century about forty. More than three-quarters of Bouman’s old list concerns organs from after 1700.






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