Winfried Bönig

Liszt, Bruckner, Strauss: Orgel Transkriptionen

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Transcriptions of orchestral music for organ are generally regarded as kitschy and somewhat less proper or acceptable than the usual recital fare, though music lovers who have a sense of history know that J.S. Bach regularly transcribed the music of others for his instrument and set an example that many composers have followed. Winfried Bönig presents the late Romantic music of Anton Bruckner, Franz Liszt, and Richard Strauss on this 2012 release on Motette, and the program works rather well, considering that the pieces by Bruckner and Strauss translate convincingly to the organ. Bruckner's scherzos from the Symphony in D minor, "Die Nullte," and the Symphony No. 2 in C minor are rousing showpieces that demonstrate the organ's wide range of terraced dynamics and colorful stops, though the Adagio from the String Quintet in F major actually sounds as if it were composed as a meditation for organ, particularly through the idiomatic use of the softer stops. Max Reger's transcription of Strauss' Solemn Entry of the Knights of St. John is also well-suited to the organ, because its building drama is produced by the gradual adding of stops in a long crescendo. The one arrangement that stretches the organ's possibilities and credulity is the transcription of Liszt's Les Préludes, which is so famous in its original orchestral form, this version almost seems like parody. The overwhelming bombast of Liszt's swaggering tone poem is almost laughable on the organ, and the loud fanfares and sweeping chromatic runs make the arrangement seem little better than melodramatic theater music. The echoes of Cologne Cathedral tend to blur the performances, so this album can be appreciated best by listeners who are used to hearing organ music in situ.

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