Adapting orchestral music for the organ can be a tricky matter, and few transcriptions work ideally despite the similarity of the organ's varied stops to the instruments of the orchestra and its capacity to imitate an orchestra's massed forces and wide dynamic range. However, when the music happens to be arrangements of excerpts from Richard Wagner's opera tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen the trickiness of the project becomes even more obvious, for the difficulties of these complex orchestral pieces are only compounded when transferred to the organ. Notwithstanding Hansjörg Albrecht's amazing virtuosity and undeniable cleverness in turning Wagner's lavish music into keyboard showpieces, and the elaborate measures taken by engineer Martin Fischer in recording this album, the transformations don't always work well musically, and these concert extracts from Das Rheingold, Die Walküre, Siegfried, and Die Götterdämmerung lose some of their essential qualities in the translation. The Prelude to Rheingold may be the most successful of Albrecht's six arrangements, because the four-and-a-half-minute elaboration of an E flat major chord is a simple idea that can be managed well on the organ, thanks to its potential to indefinitely sustain pitches and the ability of the organist to build a long crescendo by adding stops, coupling manuals, and opening the swell box. Of middling success, the Valhalla Scene and the Waldweben are acceptable transcriptions because of their generally quiet, subdued nature, though their climaxes will likely remind listeners of flashy theater organ music. But the Ride of the Valkyries, Siegfried's Funeral March, and Brunnhilde's Farewell are so familiar in their original versions that they sound awkward and strained on the organ, and they seem almost ludicrous in their bombastically stacked-up chords and ostentatious runs. This SACD from Oehms Classics has terrific sound, so fans of organ music will be able to appreciate the magnificent sonorities of the two instruments used in this recording, the Kleuker and the Cavaillé-Coll-Mutin organs of the church of St. Nikolai in Kiel, Germany.
© Blair Sanderson, All Music Guide
Portions of Content Provided by All Music Guide.
© 2008 All Media Guide, LLC. All Music Guide is a registered trademark of All Media Guide, LLC.