Willem Tanke

Willem Tanke: Meditations for a Lent

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In a long line of improvisers and composers for the organ, Willem Tanke combines both disciplines in his rather freely structured works, and seems to take his cues from Bach and Messiaen in his mystical cycle Meditations for a Lent. These 12 pieces grew out of research Tanke conducted at Rotterdam Conservatory, the results of which he later entitled, "The Art of Doing Nothing." These somber meditations were developed from improvisations on short ideas that require little physical exertion; Tanke performs them on the organ of St. Willibrorduskerk in Berkel-Enschot, a small instrument, yet one capable of producing fairly loud, penetrating sonorities. However, the greater part of this recording is quiet and reflective, and most of the meditations sound like modal inventions over soft drones. There is a religious context for these works, but Tanke is less direct in describing the Lenten program than he is in relating technical features of the music (in the notes, only a reference to a Gregorian chant in Meditation 4 and an allusion to Good Friday in Meditation 9 make any religious connections apparent.) But the subdued feeling of this organ music certainly suggests a sacred mood, and these studies demonstrate that avant-garde experimentation can be employed in the service of spiritual pursuits, much as the innovative works of past masters were used for religious purposes. This hybrid SACD offers incredibly realistic reproduction, so the organ -- both in its conventional registration and in the noises produced through its wind chest -- has extraordinary presence and natural sound in the church's resonant acoustics.

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