Music for Piano and Organ = THIERRY ESCAICH: Choral’s Dream; PAAVO HEININEN & JOUKO LINJAMA: Quincunx duplex; PAAVO HEININEN: Täällä; MARCEL DUPRE: Variations on Two Themes – Annikka Konttori-Gustafsson, piano/ Jan Lehtola, pipe organ – Alba

by | Dec 9, 2009 | SACD & Other Hi-Res Reviews | 0 comments

Music for Piano and Organ = THIERRY ESCAICH: Choral’s Dream; PAAVO HEININEN & JOUKO LINJAMA: Quincunx duplex; PAAVO HEININEN: Täällä; MARCEL DUPRE: Variations on Two Themes – Annikka Konttori-Gustafsson, piano/ Jan Lehtola, pipe organ – Alba multichannel SACD ABCD 255, 61:11 [Distr. by Albany] ****:

Works for the duo of piano and pipe organ are quite rare. I’ve long had an interest in the unusual combination and have several recordings, but our church has recently featured a number of piano/organ postludes that are very popular (especially the Great Gate at Kiev from Pictures at an Exhibition) and renewed my interest in the form. The combination is fraught with challenges.  The sustained, reverberant sound of the organ contrasts with the more precise notes of the grand piano which quickly recede. The pianist often has a difficult time hearing where each organ notes begins, and the delay of the  sound of the king of instruments is a challenge to sync up with.  The piano may sometimes sound like it is in the foreground, with the organ providing the orchestral backing, while at other times in these pieces the two instruments are equal partners, carrying on a dialog with one another.

The heyday of the piano/organ duo occurred in France in the 20th century, and the popularity of the harmonium for home performance in the late 19th century had something to do with it. Many of the composers involved in writing for the organ were also pianists, and the new developments in organ building as part of the French Organ School gave the organ some attributes that were akin to the grand piano. Tutors of the organ even urged their charges to develop their technique thru playing the piano to give their fingers greater strength and suppleness.  

Choral’s Dream spins a fascinating web of sound with Gregorian and chorale fragments spinning around between the two instruments. The collaboration on Quincunx – slightly longer than the other three works – was stimulated by the two artists, one a pianist and the other an organist, having climbed up the tower of Gaudi’s unfinished La sagrada familia cathedral in Barcelona.  It is created around one or two-minute pieces in which one instrument provides counterpoint to what the other instrument is playing. Only the opening and closing pieces were composed by the two performers together.  Dupre wrote his Variations in 1937 to commemorate the death of the Russian composer Glazounov. The piano is given a falling theme and the organ a rising one, which are stated at the beginning and developed in 15 variations which alternate between harmonious dialog and sometimes a caustic race to a musical finish line. The fine 5.0 surround is just the ticket for clarifying the spatial separation and sizes of the two dissimilar instruments.

 – John Sunier

Related Reviews
Logo Pure Pleasure
Logo Apollo's Fire
Logo Crystal Records Sidebar 300 ms
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01