WORKS: Organ Sonata No. 1; Organ Sonata No. 2; Organ Sonata No. 3; Variations on a Recitative, Op. 40; Two Fragments of a Sonata for Organ; Three Fugues on BACH
PERFORMER: Kevin Bowyer (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: NI 5411 DDD
An addition to Hindemith’s organ discography is always welcome, especially since it has been given an unjustly harsh deal by record companies. Currently, there is only one rival version of the sonatas, by Piet Kee on the Chandos label. The three organ sonatas were written in the space of three years at the height of Hindemith’s artistic maturity, and even though he was not himself an experienced organist, each displays intimate knowledge of the instrument and wonderfully idiomatic writing.
For this recording, Kevin Bowyer has chosen the four-manual Marcussen organ that is also used for his highly regarded ongoing Bach cycle. This makes good musical sense, for it is able to supply that transparency of texture and vivid, contrasting tonal colours essential for realising Hindemith’s organ music. Bowyer adopts noticeably faster speeds than Piet Kee, yet his technical control is such that nothing ever sounds hurried. Quick movements sustain an unforced buoyancy, underpinned by some refreshingly original registration, and such movements as the Siciliano of the Second Sonata also move along, but always gracefully. Generally, these are fine performances. The companion pieces on this disc, by Schoenberg and Hindemith’s contemporary Ernst Pepping, do not sustain the same level of creativity and interest, though Bowyer certainly gives them his keenest advocacy. Stephen Haylett