Magazine article Gramophone

'Heroic Proportions'

Magazine article Gramophone

'Heroic Proportions'

Article excerpt

'Heroic Proportions'

JS Bach Prelude and Fugue, 'St Anne', BWV552

Barber Adagio (arr Strickland) Franck Piece heroique Stewart Sonetto Willan Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue

Felix Hell org

MSR Classics (F) MS1542 (6V * DDD)

Played on the JW Steere & Son Opus 665 organ at St Mark Lutheran Church, Hanover, PA

Of late, if Bach's St Anne Prelude and Fugue (aka Prelude and 'St Anne's' Fugue, as on an MSR Classics disc played by Barbara Harbach in an all-Bach programme) appears on disc it is heard transcribed for piano--for instance, Sergio Fiorentino (Piano Classics, 6/12) or Markus Becker (Reger's transcription; Hyperion, 8/09)--or in Schoenberg's orchestral version (MDG, 4/10 or Warner Classics, 11/15). There are dozens of accounts of the organ original available, the most recent that I've noticed being Iveta Apkalna's vivid account (Oehms, 9/15). Felix Hell's quickish performance made in St Mark Lutheran Church, Hanover, Pennsylvania--is a fine if not spectacular rendition.

As with his earlier MSR disc (2005), Bach sits alongside French music--well, Franck's Piece heroique (1878)--and pieces with a North American connection. For many the primary novelty may be conductor-organist William Strickland's arrangement of Barber's Adagio for strings (1936-38). This works rather well, the emotion held in check and rapt quietude before swelling out fortissimo.

Eric R Stewart's Sonnetto (2012) is less obvious or immediate in appeal, a cogently argued if expressively rather overcast single-movement piece. …

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