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CD: Fuga

Marcel DUPRÉ (1886-1971)
Suite, Op.62
Entrée [1:56]
Canzona [2:20]
Sortie [3:08]
Antiphon, Op 18/3 [3:03]
Magnificat (Gloria) [2:07]
Gabriel FAURÉ (1845-1924)
Five Preludes from Neuf Préludes, Op. 103 (trans. Kalevi Kiviniemi): No. 3 in G minor [4:6] No. 8 in C minor [1:18]
No. 5 in D minor [3:28] No. 9 in E minor [2:35]
No. 7 in A major [2:27]
Eugène GIGOUT (1844-1925)
Three pieces from Dix pièces pour orgue
Antienne dans le mode ecclésiastique [1:56] Absoute [8:18]
Toccata [3:13]
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Interlude symphonique de Rédemption (trans. Kalevi Kiviniemi) [14:48]
Maurice DURUFLÉ (1902-1986)
Prélude sur l’introit de l’Épiphanie, Op. 13 [2:24]
Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992)
Apparation de l'Église éternelle [9:29]
Kalevi KIVINIEMI (b. 1958)
Improvisation on the Luxembourg national anthem, ‘Ons Heemecht’ [7:08]
Kalevi Kiviniemi (organ)
rec. 6-8 May 2008, St Martin’s Church, Dudelange, Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. Stereo and multichannel
FUGA 9320 [78:47]

CD: Fuga

Kalevi Kiviniemi plays the organ of Sibelius Hall, Lahti
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Intrada, Op 111a [5:58]
Joseph Gabriel RHEINBERGER (1839-1901)
Passacaglia, Op 132 [10:00]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Elsas Brautzug zum Münster (Lohengrin, arr. Kalevi Kiviniemi) [6:25]
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Pièce héroïque [8:48]
Marcel DUPRÉ (1886-1971)
Antiphon, Op. 18/3 [2:53]
Kalevi KIVINIEMI (b. 1958)
Suite [11:26]
Alexander SCRIABIN (1872-1915)
5 Preludes, Op 74/3, Allegro drammatico [2:19]
Gordon YOUNG (1919-1998)
Three Pieces (Cortège, Elegy, Divertissement) [7:08]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Konzert-Etude No. 3 ‘Un sospiro’ (arr. Kalevi Kiviniemi) [5:49]
Improvisation-Variations on La Follia
Kalevi Kiviniemi (organ)
rec. 5-9 March 2012, Sibelius Hall, Lahti, Finland. Stereo and multichannel
FUGA 9339 [71:45]
Experience Classicsonline

Two special occasions are celebrated here; the first disc marks the centenary of the Stalhuth-Jann organ in St Martin’s Church, Dudelange, Luxembourg, and the second showcases the instrument installed in Sibelius Hall, Lahti, Finland, in 2007. Regular readers will know that a new Kiviniemi recording is an event, so to have two is even more of a treat. I first heard the Luxembourg organ on a CD from Signum, in which organist-composer Naji Hakim plays a selection of his own works (review). As for the Lahti one, I was directed to a YouTube video of the Lohengrin transcription, made at the time of this recording.
Rédemption focuses on 19th- and 20th-century repertoire, which suits this mammoth instrument very well indeed. Not surprisingly the five Dupré pieces are spectacularly done, the rolling racket of the Stahlhuth-Jann captured in sound of almost frightening heft and volume. I daresay less-than-optimal audio equipment would not be able to unravel these complex textures or convey the thrilling sense of space. That said, this isn’t all about size. Dupré’s lovely Antiphon is most delicately voiced; indeed, there’s a wonderful sense of the notes suspended in this vast space. Kiviniemi’s transcriptions of five of Fauré’s nine Préludes are even more wondrous; they’re gossamer light and suffused with a gentle radiance that’s deeply affecting.
I much admire Kiviniemi’s transcription skills; his handling of the original harmonies always seems just right, and he shapes and scales the music with sensitivity and a sure sense of style. His transcription of Franck’s Interlude symphonique de Rédemption is no exception; it’s played with quiet grandeur and a keen ear for the music’s shifting dynamics and inner voices. The latter makes me realise I was a little harsh in that Naji Hakim review when, en passant, I characterised the sound of this Fuga disc as bright and overbearing. That said, this recording - masterminded by Mika Koivusalo - takes no prisoners; the sound is typically unfettered and there’s no distracting echo either.
This recital ends with contrasting pieces from two of the finest organist-composers of the 20th century - Maurice Duruflé and Olivier Messiaen. The latter’s awe-inspiring celestial blaze couldn’t be more different from the understated little Prélude that precedes it. Kiviniemi builds Messiaen’s great vision block by granitic block; it’s a compelling performance, if not quite the equal of Thomas Trotter’s unmissable account for Decca. As for the bonus track - a scorching improvisation on the Luxembourg national anthem - it’s a sonic test-to-destruction if ever there was one.
After that aural drubbing even Sibelius’s ceremonial Intrada - which opens the Lahti disc - sounds relatively subdued. Kiviniemi was one of four organists to inaugurate this 52-stop concert instrument, by Sweden’s Grönlunds Orgelbyggeri, in May 2007. The hall itself is well known for its fine acoustics, which really shine through in those Vänskä/Aho recordings from BIS. It’s worth noting that Kiviniemi’s recorded several of these pieces before. The Intrada can be heard to even more imposing effect in his fine Sibelius survey (review), the Pièce héroïque is included in his all-Franck recital (review) and the arrangement of Liszt’s ‘Un sospiro’ is part of the Lakeuden Risti programme (review).
It’s a measure of the musical and technical quality of all these Fuga recordings that they’re at or near the top of my list of organ recitals I’d want on my desert island. Does this Lahti collection live up to the high standards of the house? Emphatically, yes. This instrument has a breathtaking lucidity and perky character that ensnared me in an instant. Even the Rheinberger Passacaglia, which can sound a tad indigestible at times, has a strong narrative - not to mention a warmth and dignity - that I’ve not heard before. This is playing and recording of tremendous sophistication, and neither Kiviniemi nor Koivusalo go for the splashy ‘hi-fi’ presentation this repertoire so often gets.
If the Liszt is the centre-piece of the Lakeuden Risti disc then the Wagner arrangement is the stand-out item on this Lahti one. Has Elsa’s bridal procession ever sounded so noble, those pealing harmonies so radiant? Kiviniemi really captures an air of simple dignity here, and the lovely, aerated sounds of the Lahti instrument confirm just how subtle and beautifully voiced it is. The Franck is no less alluring; it has a pleasing lift, and the bass is rock-solid throughout. As for the Dupré Antiphon - also played on the Rédemption disc - it may seem more clear-eyed in this concert hall acoustic, but it’s no less enthralling for that.
Kiviniemi the composer makes a good impression in his three-movement Suite, which combines liquid upper registers with a firm, pulsing pedal. There’s something of that massive Intrada in the first movement, Le feu, and Le ciel has a serenity that wouldn’t be out of place in a Messiaen piece. The third movement, La mosaïque brisée, marries mobility and heft. What a versatile, immaculately tuned organ this is, and how well it sounds in this clear, modern acoustic.
The scented Scriabin Prelude isn’t particularly memorable, but the Gordon Young has a simplicity and charm that I found most appealing. As always Kiviniemi is alive to the individual character of these pieces; registrations are sensitively chosen and the music is appropriately scaled. Nowhere is that more evident than the Liszt; as glorious as it is here, the emotional rise and fall of this piece is even more keenly felt on the Kangasala organ of Lakeuden Risti Church. Indeed, the latter is my very own demo piece, which I’ll play for anyone who wants to hear just how natural and ‘present’ a modern organ recording can be.
Kiviniemi brings this recital to a close with his fleet-footed and inventive variations on La Follia; as usual I was struck by the sheer range of colour and nuance this organist manages to coax from this instrument. It’s a perfect coda to what is a fairly diverse programme. Taken together these are excellent recordings, even if I prefer Kiviniemi’s earlier renditions of the duplicated works. Both discs offer informative and lavishly illustrated booklets, which underline Fuga’s very high production values.
Hyperion’s prolific ‘Organ Fireworks’ series is an example of a series that, for all its felicities, exceeded its natural end date. Is the Kiviniemi/Koivusalo partnership going the same way? Only if they get bogged down in much-too-familiar repertoire; perhaps a touch more serendipity, as in their out-of-the-ordinary Ylistaro recital, will keep this fine brand going for a long time yet (review). I’m intrigued to see what they do next.
Musically and sonically up to the high standards of the house.
Dan Morgan

























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