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Joseph Gabriel
RHEINBERGER (1839-1901)
Works for Organ, vol. 3
Organ Sonata 8 in E minor Op 132 [26.31]
Organ Sonata 9 in B fat minor, Op 142 [28.19]
Ten Trios Op 49 [18.47]
Wolfgang Rübsaum
Organ of Fulda Cathedral
rec. Fulda Cathedral, Germany, 15. 2. 99/27. 6. 99
Naxos 8.554549 [73.38]
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Listed Comparison

Ten Trios Op 49
Rudolf Innig, the Walcker Organ St Maria, Schramberg (rec. 6-8. 1. 99, on location) Dabringhaus und Grimm, MDG 317 0892-2

Whereas as in their Dupré cycle Naxos have arrayed several organs and organists against the lone Jeremy Filsell on Guild, the two Rheinberger cycles pit it out: organist and organ vs organ and organist. Wolfgang Rübsaum, at the Organ of Fulda Cathedral reaches his third CD in a swifter traversal of all the Organ Sonatas. For Dabringhaus und Grimm, Rudolf Innig plays the Walker Organ St Maria, Schramberg. Honours are about even - though reviewers tended to favour the Naxos cycle, with its fine recording and more attractive flow of tempi. Mostly, it seems Rübsaum's organ is preferred. Rübsaum is consistently slower than Innig. The latter in his first volume played a great deal of juvenilia and the whole cycle promises to be more comprehensive. Naxos perhaps have woken up to this and have started adding music other than the Sonatas to their disc - perhaps simply avoiding the juvenilia. But who really would have credited two rival ongoing cycles of Rheinberger a few years ago? I'm not sure CPO's Wolfgang Stockmeier ever made the full traversal in the late 1980s. We're very fortunate.

And so we reach 1882, nearing midway through the cycle and Rheinberger's career - a much steadier development than say Widor's whose Symphonies were mostly early. The Eighth Sonata in E minor, marks a real advance on the preceding works, fine as they are. The Praeludium is an empathic tolling affair that swings its minor-keyed angst straight into a lasagne-layered fugue, and after working it out into E major. The surprisingly quiet Intermezzo, is followed by a Scherzoso of fire and A minor, and a powerful, muted Passacaglia. This has at its heart a kind of singing lament, a remarkably tuneful nostalgic requiescat feel to it. It builds up in 24 variations with a true sense of the form, as one would expect with this arch pedagogue.

The 10 Trios Op. 49 are much earlier, 5-8 October 1868 (so D&G, not Keith Anderson, informs me for once). As Anderson says there's much attractiveness in the first piece in G minor, which Innig takes with more drama and agogic hesitation and seems here more closely miked. Perhaps the Trios need such scrutiny, but Rübsaum allows them to flow smoothly enough. They provide practice in trio playing, and are a little Beidermeirish.

The 9th Sonata in B flat minor of 1885 provides another monolithic contrast. And no wonder. It was written for Alexandre Guilmant (1837-1911) that great predecessor of Widor and another writer of (eight) Sonatas. The first movement is cast in a Praeludium and Fugue, with a slow introduction. This is less doom-laden and more heroic in tone than the 8th Sonata, reflecting perhaps the public tone of the great fellow-organist to whom it was dedicated and written for. It swiftly moves into an allegro moderato which plateaus very attractively into returns of theme and ultimately a return of the slow introduction. The gentle E major Romance as Anderson calls it, is most winning, poised as it is between the monumental forms like a wild flower between two menhirs at Aylesbury. The final Fantasia veers between allegro moderato and Adagio, and eventually settles into a B flat major Fugue. This develops by involving themes from the opening and other reminiscences, bringing this quite wide-ranging work to a satisfying tight conclusion. There's a touch of the portentous about the Guilmant/Rheinberger relationship. On the strength of this there is a mutual admiration; but based on their corresponding genius for the organ, hardly anything to find amiss. Their shared delight in such writing emerges here in a delight in the organ and its forms for its own sake. They pay homage to their own vanished world. It might appear a little upholstered but its values and delights were solid, and on this evidence, enduring. Rübsaum plays with a shared delight.

Clearly Rübsaum at this price is unmissable, and his traversal through the Sonatas is a slimmer affair than the massive D und G project. But because of the extras, the latter might be worth investing in. It's superbly recorded too, and even more luxurious. This company tend to release complete organ sets like Reger and Buxehude at knock-down prices which might be worth waiting for. But Innig too, is a player one might patronise before the company loses heart! Meanwhile, don't hesitate to acquire Rübsaum's glowing account on this very Rheinbergerish organ.

Simon Jenner

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