With MDG's Organ Landscape: Latvia, organist Martin Rost continues his cook's tour of the various organs in the Baltics. One problem at the outset with this volume is the relative lack of native literature in Latvia to go with the age of the instruments involved. Named Latvian composers do not figure in the program until the eve of the twentieth century, but the earliest organ Rost plays is a magnificent -- and previously unrecorded -- Cornelius Rhaneus instrument in Ugale that was built in 1700. The literature Rost performs up to the point where the natives come into play is at least related to Latvia, either held in libraries there or written for some notable occasion, mostly in Riga. However, the composers are predominantly German, or, in the case of Rudolf Postel, Silesian. Once the Latvian names finally take over, the German manner continues to pervade until one reaches the name of Jazeps Vitols, and then a French-styled manner takes over. This is curious, as Latvia has a very proud tradition of folk music; just ask anyone who has heard a Latvian Christmas carol. Nevertheless, there is no evidence of it here; apparently, they do not confuse the people's music with that used for liturgical purposes in Latvia.
One notable exception, for entirely different reasons, is Franz Liszt's chorale prelude Nun Danket all Gott, heard here on the exact instrument for which it was composed and initially premiered in 1884. It is striking how effectively Liszt could compose for an organ that he certainly only saw on paper and Rost -- pardon the pun -- pulls out all the stops, sensing the occasion. If one is already collecting Rost's other Organ Landscape discs, then this one should be as expected. However, from a purely musical perspective it is not nearly as enthralling as the Estonian disc, which preceded it in the series.