Joseph Kelemen Freundt-Orgel 1642, Günzer-Orgel 1609
Oehms Classics OC 658
Hassler’s growing reputation as a choral composer of mainly polychoral church music, madrigals and instrumental consort pieces of a grand courtly nature is now increasingly complemented by a body of work for organ, which proves to be equally inventive and musically consistent as his other work. This recital of organ pieces, mainly major showy occasional pieces but also the even more substantial and more harmonically daring Orgelmesse in eight movements. In this latter work, Hassler takes the instrument into some remote keys, which sound wonderfully raw in the old tuning. After Joseph Kelemen, who gives us thoroughly satisfying accounts of the music, the main stars of the CD are the two venerable organs he uses: the Freundt-Orgel of 1642 in the Stiftskirche Klosterneuburg and the Günzer-Orgel of 1609 in St Martin, Gabelbach. Both offer a stunning array of stops, comprehensively documented for each movement in the excellent programme notes. In many ways the large-scale pieces, which Kelemen plays in the first half of the CD on the Freundt organ are the more impressive part of the programme, but the combination of the more exploratory works on the older instrument, particularly the remarkable chromatic concluding Ricercar del secondo tono more powerfully underline Hassler revolutionary side as an organ composer. This is music which powerfully prefigures the mastery of J S Bach but written seventy-five years before Bach was born!
D. James Ross