JOSEF GABRIEL RHEINBERGER: Organ Concerto No. 1 in F Major Op. 137; Organ Concerto No. 2 in G minor Op. 177; Three Pieces for Cello & Organ – Stefan Johannes Bleicher, organ/ Cäcilia Chmel, cello/ Musikkollegium Winterthur/ Douglas Boyd – MD&G Scene multichannel SACD (2+2+2) MDG 901 1643-6, 57:58 [Distr. by E1] *****:
In the Baroque period only a few composers such as Handel and Mozart wrote concertos for pipe organ and orchestra. The first symphonic organs designed by Cavaillé-Coll in the 19th century changed that, but there are still not that many concertos for organ and orchestra – a very natural combination since the pipe organ is the only solo instrument to approach the symphony orchestra in its rich musical abilities.
Power Biggs recorded the two organ concertos of Rheinberger, which date from 1884 and 1894 respectively. Now that there is a renewed interest in the more traditionalist composers of the 19th century, the music of Rheinberger is finding its way back into the repertory. And how fortunate these concertos come to us in such excellent hi-res surround sonics, since both the organ and orchestra on their own benefit so much from surround reproduction – and together they benefit even more.
Rheinberger departed from the usual writing of the organ part in a classical solo role, and in the First Concerto made it into an integral part of the orchestra. Both concertos are in three movements, with the first having a more majestic revelation of the themes, the second a slow Andante, and the third a more speedy Con moto. For the Second Concerto Rheinberg used a chamber orchestra consisting of strings plus three horns.
There have been sufficient pieces written for cello and pipe organ that there have been at least a couple recordings devoted to that particular duo. The Three Pieces by Rheinberg are all between four and five minutes length and are titled Abendlied, Pastorale, and Elegie. The three were originally written for violin and organ and later re-arranged by Rheinberger.
The Musikkollegium of Winterthur, Switzerland was founded in 1629 and has over the years paid for the maintenance and upgrading of the symphonic organ in the Winterthur Town Church. Among other attributes it has powerful 32-foot bass pipes. The performances by organist Bleicher and cellist Chmel plus the orchestra are full of life and beautifully rendered by MDG’s surround sound. When I have my speakers set up again for 2+2+2 playback you can be sure this will be one of the first SACDs I will try out, and from past experience it should sound even better!
— John Sunier
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