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Wilhelm Middelschulte: Organ Works 3

Wilhelm Middelschulte: Organ Works 3

Jurgen Sonnentheil Organ

CD: 1
Tracks: 10
Length: 1:05:15

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CPO
Rel. 1 Jan 2006
Recorded 2003

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Wilhelm Middelschulte: Organ Works 3 It is tempting to refer to German-American composer Wilhelm Middelschulte "the Busoni of the organ," except that the influence went the other way around—it was the Chicago-based Middelschulte whose work affected Ferruccio Busoni through Middelschulte's theoretical concepts, incisive advocacy of Johann Sebastian Bach, and other attributes. However, it is through his friendship with Busoni that we know of Middelschulte at all, and the German label CPO is recording all of the surviving organ music of Middelschulte with organist Jürgen Sonnentheil.

Wilhelm Middelschulte: Organ Works 3 features three rather large-scale works based on themes of J.S. Bach: his Kanonische Fantaisie über Bach, Konzert über ein Thema von Bach, and a bizarre, but nonetheless enchanting hybrid arrangement of Bach's Toccata and Fugue in D minor that combines Bach's original with an added part for piano. The Konzert is particularly interesting as it is the only concerto for organ and orchestra composed by an organist well known in his day for performing such works by others; unfortunately, the solo organ version is the only extant one, as the full score was wiped out during a World War II-era bombing raid. It is a difficult and highly experimental piece even minus the orchestral part, and one wonders what the original must have sounded like; it is not so much based on a "theme" of Bach as on melodic gestures drawn from the Fugue in E minor, BWV 548. In Middelschulte's work, polyphonic lines work through a completely unpredictable series of progressions that wind further and further off into the stratosphere. The Brahmsian softening of polyphonic textures that so informs the work of Max Reger is nowhere to be found here—Middelschulte employs "naked" contrapuntal lines and adds no ornaments or other techniques to leaven the texture; compared to the sort of black forest rye favored by Reger, it's like a saltine.

Middelschulte's concerto is so avant-garde for 1903 that the mere introduction of it into the recorded canon adds a chapter to the development of twentieth century harmonic practice that heretofore we've known nothing about. Sonnentheil performs this arduous organ music with some measure of justice, but it's hard to tell, as the recording is so shockingly poor. The Kanonische Fantaisie über Bach in particular has no high end whatsoever, and the recording is distant even for something recorded in a church. When the piano joins in on Toccata and Fugue in D minor the missing high end magically appears, but only in the piano part. To summarize, Wilhelm Middelschulte: Organ Works 3 consists of essential but unknown music, presented in a decent performance reproduced in bad sound—kind of takes one back to the old days of budget classical LPs.

© Uncle Dave Lewis , 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.
AMG
CD 1
1 Fantasie: Andante con moto. Andante 10:33
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2 Einleitung. Moderato molto e pensieroso 3:23
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3 Fuge über 4 Themen von Joh. Seb. Bach. Con moto moderato 11:30
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4 Praeludium (Poco adagio - Moderato) 7:26
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5 Scherzo (Leggiero e giocoso) 2:00
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6 Adagio (Lento espressivo) 4:39
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7 Intermezzo (Allegro energico ma non presto) 3:27
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8 Finale (Moderato con gravita) 13:40
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9 1.Toccata 2:38
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10 2.Fugue 5:59
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