Schoenberg, Ligeti, Frescobaldi

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COMPOSERS: Frescobaldi,Ligeti,Schoenberg
WORKS: Variations on a Recitative; Two Fragments of a Sonata for Organ. Two Etudes for Organ; Volumina; Ricercare.Ricercare cromatico post il credo
PERFORMER: Hans-Ola Ericsson (organ)
Experimental 20th-century organ music can provide some intriguing experiences. Both Schoenberg and Ligeti viewed the organ as an ungainly, limited instrument, the latter describing it succinctly and memorably as ‘… a massive artificial leg’. Yet, in their own ways, they both felt drawn to a creative potential in organ sound which had yet to be explored.


The influence of Bach is manifested clearly in Schoenberg’s Variations on a Recitative, written in 1941, with a stable tonal centre asserting itself early on, and contrapuntal textures dominating much of the writing. However, this is a work very much of its time and resonances of his early highly chromatic style permeate the music throughout. The performer is besieged by technical difficulties, and yet Ericsson responds to the challenge superbly, charging the music with sharply-etched contrasts of colour and unflagging rhythmic drive.


Ligeti’s organ music could well be described as studies in soundscapes, the music flowing without break from one broad-brush texture to another. In Volumina, some extraordinary effects are achieved by, for example, controlling the wind supply to the organ, and Ericsson conjures up some unearthly images by this method on the Grönlund organ of Luleå Cathedral. The ricercares of three centuries apart are played on the smaller Kjersgaard organ of Högalid Church, Stockholm. A disc well worth investigating. Stephen Haylett