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From the 2011 ARD Competition, Day 11

September 9th, Organ Finals, Part II

Playing on the grand 1985 Klais Organ of the Philharmonic Hall of the Gasteig, the four young organists Lukas Stollhof, Michael Schöch, Johannes Lang, and Anna-Victoria Baltrusch came together for the second part of the organ finale for four performances of the Hindemith Concerto for Organ and Chamber Orchestra, op.46 no.2 (1927), a.k.a. Kammermusik 7, not to be mistaken for his Concerto for Organ from 1962, as I found out when I looked at the score and the notes didn’t match what was being played by the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under Sebastian Tewinkel. They were an integral part of making the four performance continuously diverting, which is—not to take too much of a dig at Hindemith—a great compliment.

available at Amazon
P.Hindemith, Kammermusik,
Chailly / RCO

[FYI: Chailly is set to record a new set of Kammermusik with the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra.]
The first candidate of a day, especially when it involves a work one doesn’t know well and perhaps an instrument with which one isn’t on very intimate terms, serves largely to get to know both. That role fell to Lukas Stollhof, the oldest and most experienced of the candidates. He worked his way through a lively and pleasant first movement, with liberal—frankly distracting—use of the swell for dynamic variation. The second movement sounded like organ and orchestra mutually accompanying each other and with neither taking up the case of the music. At its best, it’s truly a chamber work for winds and organ, with the flute and oboe duetting with the organ, after which the rest of the winds and eventually the horns enter.

Michael Schöch put the performance into perspective. One of the students of Munich organ professor and member of the ARD competition’s jury, Edgar Krapp, he gave more of a pulse to the first movement, more rigor, and more horizontal pull which resulted in, ironically, a great flow. He dealt with dynamic issues through nicely subtle registration that eschewed abrupt blocks of sound… and his third movement showed first signs of humor, not pretentiousness as it had with the first candidate. The painfully obvious better registration might be considered a by-product home field advantage, though a (slightly sleazy) article in the local paper insinuated foul play by Krapp—who knows all three organs on which the candidates performed very well and whose students were very successfully in making the initial cut—and his fellow jury member from Munich, custodian of the Gasteig organ, Friedemann Winklhofer. Local storm in a teacup, for the most part.

Johannes Lang and Anna-Victoria Baltrusch are not students (former or current) of Krapp, nor overly familiar with the Gasteig’s (or Music Academy’s) organ, and their registrations were considerably better, too. The former still worked the first movement mainly through the swell, which I find off-putting, but the second movement was indeed “Very slow and very calm”, beautifully, subtly registered, with a nice give-and-take—albeit not quite as seamless and grayer, more homogenous than Schöch’s. The last movement, suggested ♪ = up to 184, was taken slower, with wit penetrating even into the registration. Mlle. Baltrusch substituted daring for wit, and threw herself at the first and third movement with buoyancy, meticulous registration work, and a stern, grand, brilliant ring to it, especially in the finale where the winds and brass of the chamber-sized Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra under Sebastian Tewinkel must have felt the challenge. Her second movement—this the exception—was flexible, gentle, and slightly boring. The audience reacted with astonishment that their favorite, audience prize winner Lang, did not even receive a third prize which went to Stollhof. Second went to Mlle. Baltrusch, and the first—this one hardly controversial—to Schöch.

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