Eben: Sunday Music; Protestant Chorales; Two Chorale Fantasies; A Festive Voluntary; Chorale Fantasy
ALBUM TITLE: Eben Organ music
WORKS: Sunday Music; Protestant Chorales; Two Chorale Fantasies; A Festive Voluntary; Chorale Fantasy
PERFORMER: Halgeir Schiager (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: CDA 67197
There’s no doubt that Petr Eben is one of the major voices in 20th-century organ music, and that Sunday Music is a masterpiece. Pretty good starting points for any disc, then, but can Norwegian organist Halgeir Schiager run with the hare? Well, there aren’t many occasions when the hare is ahead, shall we say. He has technique in abundance, and makes light work of some terrifying pages of music. The last movement of Sunday Music is ablaze simply due to his crisp digital dexterity. The 12 miniatures, going by the modest title of Protestant Chorales (like a Czech version of the Orgelbüchlein), are wonderful gems, wonderfully played.
What I miss at times is a more powerful advocacy. Eben’s music, to be sure, resonates with Hindemith-like neoclassicism, and Schiager’s clean unfurling of the music, often sitting back on the beat, puts Eben firmly in this mould. He is not a player ever to take the music by the scruff of the neck and wring an emotional journey from it. That said, a serious-minded, documentary approach never distorts Eben’s message.