Tongues of Fire

Heini and Held in Horw with concertos for organ

Author: 
Marc Rochester

Tongues of Fire

  • Concerto for Organ, Strings and Percussion
  • Tongues of Fire
  • Variations on a theme of Tchaikovsky
  • Concerto for Organ, Strings and Timpani

It is the sad fate of organ concertos to be performed once or twice by the organist for whom they were written on the organ for which they were conceived and then consigned to oblivion. Who, now, programmes those by Alun Hoddinott, Malcolm Williamson or Hendrik Andriessen? Some did make it on to record but soon disappeared from the pages of the catalogue, typical of these being Bossi’s Op 100, which appeared for a time on an obscure-label LP before being wiped from the public consciousness by the digital age. Such a fate must not be allowed to befall the Concerto for organ, strings and percussion composed last year by the Swiss composer Carl Rütti.

If it does, this recording may well be to blame, for this is such an outstanding and breathtaking performance that many will feel the work can never sound so good again. Heini is a true virtuoso for whom Rütti’s exacting demands seem second nature, while the music seems such a perfect fit on the splendid 1996 Goll organ at Horw, near Lucerne, that it is difficult to imagine it working so well elsewhere, especially given such a tremendously vivid recorded sound. But Rütti’s Concerto is clearly a cut above the rest, not least, I would dare to suggest, the Poulenc with which it shares both orchestration and this disc.

Held drives the Poulenc along restlessly, relishing opportunities for melodrama and pathos; and, while this Siberian orchestra is not always at the cutting edge of precision in either tuning or ensemble, they make a warm and loving sound, nowhere more so than in a deeply affectionate account of the Arensky Variations on the famous Tchaikovsky Legend.

Left to his own devices, Heini exhibits great dramatic flair in Tongues of Fire, Rütti’s powerful six-and-a-half minute tour de force for organ solo. But, fascinating and worthwhile as it is, this, like everything else on the disc, is wholly eclipsed by a scintillating and truly stupendous performance of a new concerto which demands to be heard.

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