Handel: Organ concertos op. 4 & op. 7

Martin Haselböck (op. 4), Jeremy Joseph (op. 7), Orchester Wiener Akademie
Alpha Classics Alpha 742

In 2014 Martin Haselböck and his Orchester Wiener Akademie put themselves on the musical map with their Resound Beethoven project, which involved performing and recording the complete Beethoven symphonies on period instruments in Viennese venues where they had been premiered or performed in the composer’s lifetime. As the programme note to this 2-CD boxed set candidly admits, this project is very different in that the magnificent acoustic of the Goldener Saal of the Musikverein provides these organ concertos by Handel with a very different context from the composer’s own performances. While the Musikverein’s 2011 Rieger organ provides many of the stops available on a Baroque organ, again the context is very different, while the forces fielded by the Akademie are much smaller than those available to Handel for his performances, often in the wider context of an oratorio or an opera. And yet, these are utterly mesmerising performances, musically intelligent, technically superb, and wonderfully effervescent. While the Resound Beethoven project reminded us that the acoustic of the original venues is a factor in any attempt to reconstruct how music originally sounded, it is possible to produce an utterly convincing and engaging performance just by calling upon superlative musicians and placing them one of the finest acoustics in the world. If just occasionally I felt that an organ stop belonged in a later period, these are thoroughly enjoyable accounts with Haselböck himself at the keyboard for the op 4 concerti and Jeremy Joseph taking over for the op 7. For a generally more convincing period sound, the excellent 1996 set by Paul Nicholson on Hyperion with Roy Goodman and the Brandenburg Consort which uses an organ Handel himself is known to have played, and which gives us the op 4 no 6 on harp as originally intended as well as supplying the Alleluia chorus conclusion to op 4 no 4 (mentioned in the booklet notes for present recording but not performed) is probably for you, but I did very much enjoy these Viennese accounts.

D. James Ross


Pachelbel: Organ Works volume 2

Matthew Owens
resonus RES10303

When I reviewed Vol. 1 of Matthew Owens’ excellent Pachelbel Organ Works a year ago, I wondered whether all the subsequent discs were to be recorded on the Queen’s College Frobenius, where he had been organ scholar, pondering that Pachelbel’s diverse compositions might be better served by a richer, more South German tone. And here is Vol. 2, as rich a mix as Vol. 1, and recorded on the colourful 2015 Bernard Aubertin organ in a private house in East Sussex last November! This is the organ that Stephen Farr used for the Resonus recording of Bach’s early Chorale Partitas, and here they make an equally good technical job of capturing both the carefully voiced organ and Owens’ neat articulation and phrasing.

Every track has its registration noted carefully in the liner notes, to be read against the specification of the instrument on the page opposite, which is a great delight to this reviewer at least. The Aubertin organ (Aubertin trained in Alsace and works in the Jura, and his organs have a blend of French and lower German/Austrian quality to their voicing) in Fairwarp has that rich and colourful quality that suits the middle-south German style of writing so well. Some of the shorter numbers, like the variations on the Chorale Partita Christus, der ist mein Leben, are played on single ranks: one on a 4’ flute only and we also hear the robust Voix Humaine paired with the 4’ flute on the Grand Orgue. The 22 Fugues on the Magnificat Primi Toni also give us a chance to experience the wonderful variety and subtle phrasing of this delicately voiced instrument – where flute and principal ranks can be combined together to shade the tone – as well as alerting us to the fact that Pachelbel worked in both Lutheran and Catholic traditions.

Owens’ playing is elegant, fluent and well articulated. There is a lot of Pachelbel to come – the last complete Pachelbel organ works, recorded two decades ago by Antoine Bouchard on a 1964 Casavant organ in Quebec, ran to 11 CDs – but the series promises well. I look forward to the next volume keenly: what organ will Owens choose for the next tranche?

David Stancliffe


Elizabethan Organ Music

Gustav Leonhardt at the Schnitger organ, Zwolle, Holland
Paradizo PA0019

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For goodness’ sake do not do what I initially did, and dismissively assume that this is another re-hash of Leonhardt’s greatest hits. It is a unique recording, it is an historically significant recording, it is a superb recording, and anyone with an interest in early keyboard music will be delighted that this recording has been resurrected and made generally accessible. As Skip Sempé explains in the booklet, it was originally made for a niche American recording company in the spring of 1962, in a pressing of only a few hundred copies, available only in the USA. Now anyone and everyone can buy it, and the quality of the music and of the performances makes this a cause for rejoicing.

Sempé states that Leonhardt subsequently re-recorded only three of these eleven pieces: two for harpsichord and one for organ. The two harpsichord works are Farnaby’s Fantasia, and Gibbons’ Fantasia MB XX/6, both currently on Philips 4381532. The third re-recording that I have traced is Byrd’s Clarifica me pater III (on the CD it retains the superceded title that was current back in 1962) which Leonhardt plays on the claviorgan (Alpha 073); either Sempé has taken this performance to be on an actual organ, or I have missed a commercial recording of one of these pieces, played on an organ by Leonhardt. Either way, this is a release additionally to be treasured for these unique renditions by Leonhardt of eight fine Elizabethan pieces.

The organ which Leonhardt uses is in San-Michaelskerk, Zwolle, Netherlands, built by Arp and Frans Caspar Schnitger, 1721. Some Elizabethan music ostensibly composed for the virginals or harpsichord can sound strident at one extreme or reedy, even weedy, at the other when played on early organs. The Zwolle instrument sounds beautiful, though it does of course date from over a century after the repertory on this disc was composed. The choice of music is excellent, intermingling folk material with the rigours of plainsong fantasias, and free fantasias (and a prelude) with the discipline of a ground. The fantasias by Byrd and Philips are particularly well chosen, not only because they are both masterful compositions, but also because Philips, a pupil of Byrd, uses the same theme as his teacher. Their respective working out of the material makes for an enthralling comparison.

These compositions from a golden age are performed superbly. Leonhardt had a particular respect for Byrd, and there is the added frisson in hearing works of the first great composer for the keyboard being played by arguably the greatest modern performer on early keyboard instruments: it would be hard to imagine finer performances of either piece. The same can be said of the other nine pieces. Whether you own one, some, most, all, or none of these tracks, this is a recording that simply recommends itself: it is a major discographical event.

Richard Turbet


Frescobaldi: Complete unpublished works for harpsichord & organ

Roberto Loreggian
<TT> (6 CDs in a double CD case)
Brilliant Classics 96154

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This collection of six CDs marks the conclusion of Roberto Loreggian’s impressive journey through the complete keyboard music of Frescobaldi, begun back in 2008. While Frescobaldi was a careful preparer and editor of his music for publication, providing a significant canon of authentic pieces, a surprising amount survives in manuscripts scattered all round Europe. This recording has 166 pieces in total, all unpublished during the composer’s lifetime, but issued in 2017 by Etienne Darbellay and Costanze Frey as the final part of their complete edition for Suvini Zerboni. Only a handful are thought to be in Frescobaldi’s hand, but many have been identified as in the hands of collaborators and pupils such as Nicolò Borbone and Leonardo Castellani. Some are substantial pieces; others are short sketches, trial runs for later published pieces, teaching exercises, etc. Authenticating them is a complex business and has occupied scholars over many years, most notably Claudio Annibaldi, Etienne Darbellay, Frederick Hammond, Christine Jeanneret and Alexander Silbiger. Discussion continues about many pieces, and some at least are more likely to be by Frescobaldi’s pupils or followers. Silbiger maintains an online catalogue (Frescobaldi Thematic Catalogue Online (, hosted by the Journal of Seventeenth Century Music. He has attached F numbers to all pieces attributed to Frescobaldi, published and unpublished, thought to have at least the potential of having been composed by him; for the most part, these F numbers are attached to pieces in Loreggian’s recording, though some have been missed out. Hammond hosts an annotated catalogue of all sources on his website (Girolamo Frescobaldi: An Extended Biography – Frederick Hammond, Bard College), using Silbiger’s F numbers. Between them, these two websites provide the information necessary to contextualise Loreggian’s achievement; the liner notes provide only basic information about the sources.

For those already familiar with the works of Frescobaldi, listening to this recording is at once a disorientating and stimulating experience. Much of the language is familiar and sometimes whole sections are recognisable, but pieces are curtailed, go off in different directions, or use the basic building blocks in an altered way. It is fun speculating whether this or that piece is really by the composer. Above all, the recording provides a crucial insight into the workshop of Frescobaldi, his pupils and followers, and the raw material from which his published pieces emerged fully varnished. There are few surprises here: all the standard genres are found, with lots of random dance movements in particular. There are also sets of partite on familiar themes as well as canzonas, ricercars and toccatas. Some of these last are thought to be late works by Frescobaldi, but might also be by his pupils: they are certainly very accomplished. In particular, a set of three toccatas copied by the musician and engraver Nicolò Borbone in Ms. Chigi Q IV 25, and eleven canzonas also copied by Borbone and now in British Library Add. Ms. 40080, are well worth listening to. There are plenty of other gems too. At the other end of the scale, some pieces are extremely cursory, lasting less than a minute in some cases. Pieces seem to have been ordered by choice of instrument, rather than according to any particular criteria, with no attempt to single out the exceptional from the merely ordinary.

Loreggian has done a very impressive job, taking the pieces equally seriously, and giving them all the same level of attention. He plays on two organs: that built in 1565 by Graziadio Antegnati for the Cappella Palatina in Mantua’s Ducal Palace, and one made by Zanin Organi in 1998 for the Chiesa di S. Caterina in Treviso. He also plays on two modern copies of 17th-century Italian harpsichords by F. Gazzola and L. Patella. All work very well for their chosen pieces and are sensitively registered; recording quality is excellent throughout. There is one surprise in the registration, but I won’t spoil the fun by revealing it! Loreggian has a real gift for making the music sound as if he is improvising it – it is easy to imagine Frescobaldi himself in the room with the listener. As a performer, he is steeped in the musical language of the period and responds with great fluency to the changing declamatory rhythms and affective figures so typical of the composer and his milieu. He is to be congratulated for making all of this music, warts and all, available to listeners. This is a collection to dip into repeatedly for rewarding insights and is a very welcome addition to Frescobaldi discography.

Noel O’Regan


Eredità Galanti

Alberto Gaspardo organ
Barcode 8 05571 5 60000 9
SFB Records 002

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Like so many other musicians in the early 18th century, the Venetian-born Giovanni Battista Pescetti found his way to London in search of a career. The fact that he wrote so extensively for keyboard takes us back to his ancestry, and specifically his father Giaconto Pescetti, who was custodian of the organs in San Marco, and a famous builder of organs. One of the many delights of this CD is that the son’s music is played on an instrument built by the father. As the title of the CD suggests, Pescetti’s music is predominantly in the galant style, and as the excellent programme note points out his cantabile movements are particularly charming. The Pescetti organ in the Chiesa di S. Giacomo Apostolo in Polcenigo offers a pleasing range of stops, of which the organist Alberto Gaspardo makes full use. The decision to complete the programme with works by two composers born in 1991, Roberto Squillaci and Nathan Mondry, may have proved risky, except that the two young composers are clearly well-versed in Pescetti’s music and seem to be commenting on the galant style – while the latter is writing a form of pastiche, the former has a more pungent, angular response to Pescetti’s sound-world. Compared to the organ music of the Baroque and the Romatic eras. galant organ music of the 18th century is often overlooked, and it is a genuine delight to hear a programme like this, imaginatively and musically presented, and including modern works which comment so intelligently and sympathetically on the earlier repertoire.

D. James Ross


The Myth of Venice

16th-century music for cornetto & keyboards
Gawain Glenton, Silas Wollston
Delphian DCD34261

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The opening two pieces of this disc announce one of the primary tensions between musical schools of this era. The foremost theorists at the time were typically the organists, drawn to music’s formalities, whereas the soloists were wont to indulge their flights of fancy, with more attention to drama and personality. Andrea Gabrieli, one of the first organists at St Mark’s, provides the introduction: his formally structured ricercar, whose second voice, here on cornett, enters en point, continuing to pirouette lightly, using all the stage space available. Meanwhile, the formal organ continues to provide a tactus to set your watch to, in and out of the changes in mensuration. After this little delight, we turn to the founding father of the Venetian tradition, Adrian Willaert, whose beautiful arrangement of the chanson Jouissance de donneray, has to fight its way out of a briar of notes provided by Dalla Casa, perhaps the most self-indulgent of all cornettists at the time. These lines delineated, we proceed to an exploration of what lies between. We enjoy Glenton’s diminutions on Willaert’s A la Fontaine, using Ganassi’s thesis La fontegara, which add his sense of asymmetry, and hence freedom beyond his contemporaries. The effects of timbres are explored imaginatively. Between the dense and gently tremulous metal trebles of organ pipework, steals a mute cornett in Parabosco’s ricercar – offering a discreet and steady hand – da Pace. Diruta’s ricercar has a beautiful simplicity and grace, provided by a broad-sounding mute cornett and organo di legno. The organ playing throughout is marvellously seamless, with the most sparing and judicious lingerings and details of articulation that make the extended toccatas particularly engaging. The disc finishes with a selection of pieces instrumentally conceived from the off, and so into which the divisions slot comfortably – including a couple of premieres by Gorzanis. I am now looking forward to more discs from these players.

Stephen Cassidy


See, see, the word is incarnate

Choral and instrumental music by Gibbons, Tomkins and Weelkes
The Chapel of Trinity Hall, Cambridge, Newe Vialles, Orpheus Britannicus Vocal Consort, Andrew Arthur
resonus RES10295

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Despite a long and distinguished history, Trinity Hall, founded as early as 1350, is one of the lesser-known colleges that make up the University of Cambridge. It must be tired of reviewers and others attributing this to the subsequent foundation in 1546 of the bigger and wealthier Trinity College, allegedly given so similar a name deliberately by its founder Henry VIII to spite Trinity Hall’s then Master, Stephen Gardiner, who had opposed the king’s marriage to Anne Boleyn. I was well aware of Trinity Hall but am mortified to confess that I knew nothing of its chapel, nor of its chapel choir and its several discs released before the one currently under review here. On the basis of this recording, the state of its music is certainly of a piece with the college’s eminent stature. The mixed Chapel Choir has 23 members (7S 6A 5T 5B) and verses are sung by members of Orpheus Britannicus, the Ensemble in Residence which consists of seven singers who are well kent in early music circles. Accompaniments are provided by the organ scholar James Grimwood or the five-strong consort Newe Vialles (named after the new group of six viol players brought from Italy to England by Henry VIII), while the several organ solos are played by the college’s Director of Music, Andrew Arthur, who also conducts.

The contents of this recording (similar in scope to I Heard a Voice by The Choir of King’s College, Cambridge, and Fretwork, Warner Classics 3944302, 2007) can be viewed from two perspectives. For those who do not routinely sing or hear late Tudor and Jacobean music, it consists of some of the finest music from before the time of Purcell. For those who routinely hear or perform the repertory of Tudor and Jacobean music, the list of contents would seem to consist of disappointingly familiar fare – even the instrumental items by Weelkes, the least populated area of his output, have had their fair sprinkling of recordings. That said, most commercial recordings require the mystical “USP”, the unique selling point that differentiates them from others in the field. Not too many discs can be expected to sell simply on the strength of the performers: probably a CD of Stile Antico gargling would sell by the bucketload, but choirs such as Trinity Hall need that elusive USP. Fortunately it is present on this disc, and it is the tempi at which most of these works are sung: slowly. This might seem unpromising, but works such as Gibbons’ Short Service were not composed to be sung at the dismissively hurried lick which too many conductors take during cathedral or collegiate Choral Evensongs and on commercial recordings: the writing is full of subtleties which are lost at speed. That said, just plain slow performances can be sluggish, but it is entirely possible to sing a piece slowly yet with care and momentum so as to bring out its harmonic, melodic and technical beauties, and this is precisely what Trinity Hall achieve both in the settings for evensong, and in the full and verse anthems. For instance, the ultra-famous This is the record of John normally comes in at just over four minutes, while here it takes a luxurious 5’06; similarly See, see the word is incarnate usually runs for around seven minutes while here it is given 8’14. And nowhere throughout the disc is there a dull moment, half because of the quality of the music and half because of the leisured intensity of the performances.

The booklet is good, being both informative and well illustrated. Unfortunately the author trots out the tired old fiction that viols might have been employed “in the Chapel Royal and other private chapels”. There is not a shred of surviving evidence that any such performances ever took place during the lifetimes of the composers represented here. Where liturgical verse anthems with accompaniments for the organ survive with authentic alternative accompaniments for viols, it is clear from the provenances of the respective sources that the latter were intended for domestic performance; it is, therefore, perhaps all the more authentic for these versions to be sung with female participation.

And finally, what of the performances here? They are consistently good. There is a richness about the tone of the choir which suggests a Baroque sensibility rather than the more austere Anglican approach which is often adopted for the music of these composers. Thanks to the slower tempi, individual parts are easily audible while the voices blend beautifully. This is a most impressive recording. For potential purchasers unfamiliar with the repertory but keen to give it a hearing (or just keen to support Trinity Hall), it is a delightful introduction. For those familiar with this music, and who possess recordings of all these pieces, it is well worth buying this disc for the singularly ripe yet penetrating performances.

Richard Turbet


Veggio · Rodio · Bertoldo: Complete Organ Music

Luca Scandali Lorenzo da Prato organ, San Petronio, Bologna
98:42 (2 CDs in a single jewel case)
Brilliant Classics 95804

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The recent untimely death of Liuwe Tamminga has deprived us of a fine organist who spent many years officiating at the Lorenzo da Prato organ in the Basilica of San Petronio in Bologna, the instrument at the centre of these two CDs of music by three little-known Italian composers from the middle of the sixteenth century. One of the oldest surviving organs, it was built in 1471-75 and added to in 1531. Luca Scandali studied with Tamminga and with the latter’s predecessor and mentor, Luigi Ferdinando Tagliavini, so he knows the instrument well and makes very good use of its full range of stops. It can make a very big sound and the Basilica’s acoustic is also big – the reverberation continues long after final chords are released – but the recording engineers have coped very well here. Scandali shows a keen affinity with his repertory, maintaining a good sense of flow while showing considerable flexibility in individual lines and sections.

Not much is known of Claudio Veggio, the earliest of the three featured composers; all his surviving keyboard music can be found in a single manuscript housed in Castell’Arquato (situated between Piacenza and Parma). Scandali plays six ricercars (one of which he has also completed), as well as an attractive canzona intabulation. The ricercars are impressive pieces, two of them quite extended in length. They tend towards imitation by homphonic blocks, rather than by single voices, and come across rather more like intabulations than ricercars.

Rocco Rodio came from Bari but worked in Naples, where he was a contemporary of composers such as Diego Ortiz, Bartolomeo Roy and Jean de Macque in what was a cultural melting pot, leading to a flourishing school of keyboard composition. His only volume of keyboard music, published in 1575, is the first known to have been printed in open score. It contains five extended ricercars, interspersed here with three fantasias on well-known plainchant themes, plus one on La Spagna. The ricercars are imaginative pieces which go in some unexpected directions. For the fantasias, Scandali is joined by sackbut player Mauro Morini who plays the long note cantus firmi. I am in two minds about this: while it does help to bring out the chant for modern audiences not familiar with it, it gives an undue emphasis to the cantus firmus, which was not necessarily intended to be heard, with the sackbut at times overpowering the other voices in the texture.

Sperindio Bertoldo came from Modena but spent most of his life as organist at the Duomo in Padua. He has left just three ricercars, more conventionally imitative than those of the other two composers here. They are interspersed with two toccatas and five French chanson intabulations. The toccatas are a particularly good showcase for full organ, while the canzonas are rich with sprightly figuration and are used to exploit its range of stops. This recording represents an attractive compilation of music by three relatively unknown figures, serving to showcase what was already a flourishing Italian organ music scene between c. 1540 and c. 1575, before Claudio Merulo and the Gabrielis came into their stride. Scandali’s enthusiasm for the repertory shines through and I enjoyed listening to it very much.

Noel O’Regan


Andrea Gabrieli: Motets & Organ Works

Weser-Renaissance, Manfred Cordes
cpo 555 291-2

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Like Bach’s sons, Mendelssohn’s sister and Schumann’s wife (among many others), Andrea Gabrieli is one of those unfortunates whose relative has somehow eclipsed their own valuable output. I remember in my first year at university how much I enjoyed playing through volumes of Andrea Gabrieli’s keyboard music as I “taught myself the piano” (anyone who has heard me play know that it’s very much still work in progress…) At the Early Music Society, we played canzonas by Giovanni Gabrieli and it was only much later in life (at the Gloucester courses run by Alan Lumsden and Philip Thorby) that I really came to appreciate just how good a composer Andrea Gabrieli was.

This new recording on cpo confirms everything I ever thought. Veronika Greuel’s incisivce and extensive booklet note contextualises the music, which the one-to-a-part ensemble, mixing voices with a variety of the instruments one would expect (violin, cornetto, three trombones, dulcian, chitarrone and organ), then perform in a suitably “big” acoustic with lots of air around the notes. There are four organ works by the composer, and a fifth an entabulation by the performer (Edoardo Bellotti on a modified reconstruction of a late 17th-century instrument), neatly played and revealing the breadth of the composer’s mastery of styles. All in all, I cannot imagine a better way to advocate for Andrea’s rightful place in the Early Music Hall of Fame.

Brian Clark


Onder de Hemel van Vlaanderen

Gabriel Wolfer organ, Cassandre Stornetta voice
Label G 016

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This 2021 recital by Gabriel Wolfer is played on an organ built in 2019 by Bertrand Cattiaux for the église Sainte-Jacques, Beurnevésin, in the Swiss Jura. The organ is built in the style of Flemish organs of the 17th century, but with the addition of a pedal organ. The twelve manual registers are available as jeux baladeurs on either of the two manuals, enabling a wide range of registrations, and are scaled and voiced after organs by the Bremser family, dating from the mid-seventeenth century Flanders. The speech is direct and singing, and is well-recorded in this small church. The temperament has 8 pure thirds, and the pitch is A=415Hz. The music, beginning with composers from the Low Countries, Du Caurroy and Sweelink, continues with Dowland and Bull, both known to have had connections there, before returning to more strictly Netherland composers. This is music for manuals only and is well-suited to this instrument, as are the English composers who would not have known the North German style of organ.

For me, the only discordant note is the singer, who has too developed a voice to match the directness and simplicity of the organ. She only sings three numbers – Une jeune filette at the start, the chanson on which the Du Caurroy variations are based and Cornelis de Leeuw’s carol Een kindeken is ons geboren that precedes the Bull version at the end, together with the Purcell Evening Hymn. So it is the organ and its able player who take centre stage.

The programme centres on sets of variations and fantasias, so a variety of sounds embroiders these threads giving us ample opportunity to appreciate the organ’s vocal qualities. In part this is due to its winding, and in part to the action which is clearly all of a piece. The sound is fluid, and I should have liked to hear it with a group of singers, like Vox Luminis, who would match its living, breathing tones so well. I find that I am intrigued, and do not tire of it; the organ builders – who have worked on conserving some distinguished 17th-century organs in France – deserve their reputation. I commend this CD not only for the interesting Flemish programme but also for the chance to hear this interesting and beautifully finished organ.

David Stancliffe