These are not the first Wagner transcriptions for pipe organ, but the disc has several exclusive points in its favor: The organ is the largest French symphonic organ in Germany, and can be played simultaneously with a choir organ in the same space. The St. Nikolai space has excellent acoustics, and this is the first recording of such music in 5.1 multichannel. It is also the first such recording in which overdubbing was used to get an even more full orchestral effect that would have been possible in one pass. A number of separate recordings of sections using various registrations and voicings were placed on top of one another in the computer in a technique similar to that often used in pop music production but not normally used in classical. The production’s engineer compares the extreme density of the score thus achieved to equal five organists at five consoles playing ten pipe organs.
It makes sense to transcribe Wagner’s music for pipe organ since it is the closest thing in a single acoustic instrument to the sound and power of a full symphony orchestra. (The idea appeals to me personally because I must admit that I’m not a Wagnerite – can’t stand his caterwauling vocal music, and only really like three of his orchestral works: The Flying Dutchman Overture, Siegfried Idyl, and Ride of the Valkyries.) There are six movements to this piping hot concept of music from The Ring Cycle. Albrecht doesn’t attempt to include all the main themes in order from each of the four massive operas, but selects just portions representative of each one. It opens with a short theme from Rheingold, next is a “Valhalla Scene,” then music from Walküre, followed by a “Forest-Weave” from Siegfried, The Trauermarsch from Die Götterdämmerung is the penultimate section and the suite closes with the longest selection, Brünnhilde’s Parting.
The SACD is a sonic treat for any pipe organ aficionado, whether Wagnerite or not. And it stands to reason that most pipe organ fans would also be partial to surround sound reproduction of the King of Instruments. After all, the rich sound reflections in the church or cathedral from all the spatially-separated pipes is half the sonic experience of listening to organ music! And this one will envelop the listener in some pretty impressive organ sounds. The five mikes were placed in the middle of the space, so that one sits in the crossfire of the two pipe organs. It’s a Valhalla of musical creation!
– John Sunier