Classical CD Reviews

Felix Hell Plays the Rieger-Kloss Organ – Works of BACH, BUXTEHUDE, GIGOUT, DUPRE, WIDOR, BOELLMANN & REGER – MSR Classics

An interesting program from the top-flight organist.

Published on April 23, 2013

Felix Hell Plays the Rieger-Kloss Organ – J.S. BACH: Prelude and Fugue in G Major, BWV 541, ‘Wachet auf ruft uns die Stimme’ (Schubler Chorale), BWV 645, Air on the G-String; BUXTEHUDE: Prelude, Fugue and Ciaconne in C Major, BuxWV 137; DUPRÉ: Variations sur un Nöel;  EUGENE GIGOUT: Toccata in B Minor; L. BÓELLMANN: Suite Gothique, Op.25; WIDOR: Symphony No. 5 (Allegro and Allegro Cantabile only); REGER: Variations and Fugue on ‘America’– Felix Hell, organ of the Independent Presbyterian Church, Savannah, Georgia – MSR Classics MS 1162, 79:03 [Distr. by Albany] *****:

German organist  Felix Hell (b. 1985) is a top-flight organist. His background is as impressive as his playing. He has studied at the University of Church Music in Heidelberg, the Juilliard School, The Curtis Institute, not to mention attending master classes and additional coaching by the likes of Wolfgang Rübsam, Marie-Claire Alain and Dame Gillian Weir, among others. Currently, he is pursuing graduate studies at the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University. Check him out at his web site:

This recording, in addition to showing off Hell’s talents, showcases the new (2005) Rieger-Kloss organ of  three manuals and 47 ranks of pipes. A lot of churches are opting for electronic organs these days, mainly because of cost.

Electronic organ builders are trying to make their instruments sound like pipe organs. They have come very close and their efforts are very, very good, but still no cigar.

The Independent Presbyterian Church in Savannah, Georgia, chose an old-fashioned, but brand-new, pipe organ. And it sounds superb. Pipe organs have a distinctive sound quality that no electronic organ, digitalized or not, can duplicate.

Hell has a well chosen, varied program from Buxtehude and J.S. Bach to Widor and Reger to display this instrument. The program allows Hell to demonstrate most of the voices of the organ with appropriate selections.

Hell is a musically skillful and mature musician, who began as a young prodigy. Couple him with a real pipe organ that has spectacular sound and you have a truly knock-out disc. Of course, it could have sounded better if it was a SACD.

—Zan Furtwangler

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