Firstly, let’s welcome the addition of an outstandingly exciting
new organ concerto to the contemporary repertoire. And second,
let’s salute the performers. It was written in 2011 by the Swiss-born
composer Carl Rütti after having been approached by the soloist
here, Martin Heini, for a concerto for organ, strings and percussion.
A discussion followed, not least because the composer had just
written a concerto for organ, though Heini wasn’t aware of the
fact. With the triumvirate of composer, soloist and conductor
Rainer Held in close conversation, the concerto took shape.
The percussion, by the way, includes tom-toms, cymbals, temple
blocks, snare drum, tambourine and triangle.
This premiere recording captures the concerto in terrific fidelity.
If one was suspicious that this combination mirrored the Poulenc
concerto, which has also been recorded in the disc, one can
note further that Rütti’s work couldn’t be more different. It
has an exciting drive and an energy that may recall Carmina
Burana, motoric twentieth-century concerti grossi or film
music. But it has plenty of reflective moments too, and a thoughtful
slow movement in chaconne form that admits skittish Messiaen-like
birdsong in repetitive patterns in music that grows increasingly
dramatic. The Blackbird makes its appearance again in the scherzo,
rejuvenated and alluring. The finale opens with a rather lovely
carol, composed by Rütti, called A Patre unigenitus,
and spins variations of captivating breadth and stylistic licence;
some could be show tunes, segueing into bluesy twists before
opening into a glorious, magnificent peal of exaltation before
gently calming down. What a blockbuster!
The Poulenc Concerto is hard pressed to match this sonic spectacular.
In its way it’s a staple of the twentieth-century organ concerto
repertoire and thus new recordings are welcome. Heini and Held
perform it with energetic drive, digging out its fluctuations,
and emotive balancing acts, always a Poulenc speciality, with
The remaining works are Rutti’s Tongues of Fire, a
solo work for organ based on the chant Veni sancte spiritus.
Once again birdsong is interlaced in vigorous and virtuosic
fashion into the fabric of the music. There are little percussive
interjections, and colourful washes, and moments too of jazzy
Arensky’s Variations on a theme of Tchaikovsky is a
very odd bedfellow in this company. It’s a gorgeous piece of
music, though, and the State Philharmonic Chamber Orchestra
of Novosibirsk does it pretty well, but it continues to sit
oddly in the programme.
Never mind, the band deserves its outing after the fine accompanying
work in the concertos, and full marks to Held for his contribution.
The highlight here, though, is the Rütti concerto, a piece I’ve
continued to replay several times with no let-up in enjoyment.