FRANZ LISZT Organ Works = Präludium and Fugue on B-A-C-H; Orpheus; Les Morts; Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen ("Weeping, lamenting, worrying, fearing"); Evocation to the Sistine Chapel – Martin Haselböck, Ladegast organ of the Protestant church of St. James in Köthen – NCA multichannel SACD 60144-210, 64:11 [Distr. by Naxos] ****:
The Ladegast organ is a Very Large instrument, perfectly suited to the Very Large Lisztian musical conceptions – especially in glorious hi-res surround with a palpable feeling of the church’s reverberant acoustics. The disc opens with Liszt’s most popular work for organ, which has been a favorite both in Germany and the rest of the world. Liszt originally premiered the work on another Ladegast organ, in the Merseburg cathedral. All the organ’s specifications are detailed in the note booklet. Haselbock here performs the earliest version of the work; the later, more frequently heard version, is titled Fantasy and Fugue on B-A-C-H.
The second piece is Liszt’s highly-transformed version of his orchestral and atmospheric tone poem Orpheus into an independent romantic organ piece. He first wrote a piano version, both for two and four hands; this was transcribed for organ by a student, Robert Schaab. Liszt then revised that and inserted new portions, after which it was transcribed by A.W. Gottschalg, and in readying for publishing Liszt revised it yet further.
The last three selections were published as a collection under the title “Remembrance Music,” with the subtitle Three Mourning Pieces of Music. Liszt explained in his autobiography that the series was elicited by his personal mourning over the death in his arms of his 20-year-old son. He wrote the work simultaneously for piano two and four hands, orchestra, and organ, using some stanzas from a poem by de Lamennais which contrasts mourning with the promise of eternal life. Weeping, lamenting, worrying and fearing is Liszt’s re-interpretation of two cantatas by J.S. Bach, BWV 12 and BWV 21. Liszt himself said of the work: “My amplification of the Bach work ‘Weiinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen’ is certainly much too sweet and tame, although many botchers would be unsettled by the large number of dissonances.” After his bereavement Liszt spent a year in Rome composing religious works. He frequently visited the Sistine Chapel, where Mozart had written down from memory at age 14 a Gregorian mass. His Evocation is an Ave verum influenced by the spirit of Mozart.
– John Sunier