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REGER: Organ Works performed by Christoph Schoener – MD&G

REGER: Organ Works performed by Christoph Schoener (TrackList follows) MD&G 949 1919-6 multichannel SACD with 2+2+2 option (see below) TT: 63:43 (10/30/15) [Distr. by E1] ****:  

Recording and performance should please audiophiles as well as organ fans.

Christoph Schoener is the organist in this fine collection of organ works by Max Reger. Reger, who died in 1916, wrote a large amount of music for organ, the most popular being his Fantasy and Fugue on BACH, Op. 46 and the Toccata and Fugue in D minor from the collection Op. 129. While a student under Hugo Riemann in Wiesbaden, Reger met the German organist Karl Straube; they became friends and Straube premiered many of Reger’s organ works.  This disc has a large selection of Reger’s output. A track list follows at the end of this review.

Besides the music, this disc will appeal to the audiophile, as it is a full 5.1 channel SACD with extremely wide dynamic range and very low noise. The recording is designed to capture the acoustics at St. Michaels Church in Hamburg, which it does well. The surround channels are filled with the  gentle decay of the recording venue. The subwoofer also gets a workout from the lowest tones of the organ. As a total effect, the disc turned my smallish listening room into a facsimile of a large one – the effect is quite striking.

Organist Christoph Schoener is the Director of Music at St. Michael’s Church in Hamburg. He has regularly performed all of Bach’s large-scale works as well as major works for choir and orchestra by Monteverdi, Handel, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Verdi, Liszt, Poulenc, Rihm and Bernstein with the Chor St. Michaelis.

His playing on this disc is flawless and the combination of the music with the fine recording make for an excellent listening experience.

The recording advertises a 2+2+2 alternative to the standard speaker arrangement of the 5.1 channels. Anything I can find about the format is in German, but it seems to be a way to arrange overhead and floor mounted speakers pointing up to give an even more realistic portrayal of the acoustics. It doesn’t seem very practical, but some home theater systems are evolving toward ceiling speakers but 2+2+2 is a format that seems not likely to catch on. It was all very stirring in 5.1, and I was not set up to judge the 2+2+2 speaker arrangement. [We did a series of reviews of the 2+2+2 surround arrangement prior to 2013 which is no longer available, but plan to do another soon. The idea is that the normal center channel discrete signal is fed to an upper left speaker above the normal front left speaker, and the LFE channel (not needed for most music anyway) is fed to the an upper right speaker – the center channel speaker no longer being used. It is supposed to sound superior to any five-channel system for music…Ed.]

TrackList:

Fantasia über den Choral ‘Ein feste Burg’ Op. 27
Fantasia on the Chorale ‘Wie schön leucht’ uns der Morgenstern’, Op. 40 No. 1
Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier, Op. 135a, No. 14
Lobe den Herren, Op. 67, No. 24
Aus tiefer Not schrei ich zu dir Op. 67 No. 3
Herr Jesu Christ, dich zu uns wend’, Op. 67, No. 9
Chorale Fantasia on ‘Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme’, Op. 52 No. 2
Chorale Prelude ‘Freu dich sehr, o meine Seele’ ,Op. 135a No. 9
Ach bleib mit deiner Gnade, Op. 135a, No. 1
O daß ich tausend Zungen hätte, Op. 135a No. 19
Jerusalem, du hochgebaute Stadt, Op. 67, No. 18
O Haupt voll Blut und Wunden
Großer Gott, wir loben dich, Op. 135a, No.10
Introduction, Passacaglia & Fugue Op. 127

—Mel Martin

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