Heidrun Hensel is a former student of Klemens
Schnorr in Munich and is highly active, not just as an organist,
but also as a harpsichordist and continuo player with various
groups. Here she presents a programme “tracing the Italian
style in Bavaria” on the small Ahrend organ in Landshut.
About the organ we learn little, not even the specification,
which is a shame. Although clearly an organ by the great
master organ-builder of his generation, Hensel does note
that his style is slightly adapted to the Southern German
Catholic sound-world through the use of “gentle, singing
Italianate Principals with a relatively expansive range of
sounds.” One of the most charming of these is the Voce Umana
- or perhaps it’s a Piffaro? - so present in the ‘All’Elevazione’ of
Zipoli – I haven’t come across one of these on an Ahrend
instrument and it is, predictably enough, a beauty.
Hensel’s programme contains little truly
idiomatic organ music. Most of it is manualiter, and much
was probably intended for the harpsichord. This is fine and
I don’t intend it as an implied criticism. None of the music
sounds out of place, and Hensel’s playing is, without exception,
neat, tidy, well controlled and featuring a beautiful touch.
What I miss is on the one hand a little freedom, especially
in the rather wooden Toccata Duodecima of Muffat, where the
contrast between ‘real’ contrapuntal writing and free invention
should surely be honoured in a more dynamic way, and on the
other a certain ‘organic’ vocabulary of expression through
articulation. This is especially prevalent in the slower
movements of the concertos, both of which feature repeated
chordal accompaniments, and both of which receive, as a result
of Hensel’s approach, very equal accents. On the other hand
her sense of intimate atmosphere in the Froberger Lamento
for example is spot-on. It is also good to hear the music
of the much-travelled Domenico Zipoli. These miniatures by
him are so seldom played and yet contain so much good humour.
The booklet contains a slightly superficial
interview with the performer, though it is interesting to
get some insights into her approach to the music. It is a
shame that as well as the lack of the information about the
instrument, there is no explicit information about the music.
On the other hand, the repertoire is relatively unusual,
and the quality of Jürgen Ahrend’s instrument ensures that
the ear never tires.