Compared to the rest of Europe, organ music in Switzerland is relatively young, and it was only in the early 19th century that momentum in the genre started to be regenerated. Zwingli, the religious reformer banned organ playing in Zürich's churches in 1523, and he went even further by prohibiting the singing of hymns in 1525. Spurned by his fanatical dreams, he brought about the demolition of all organs in Zürich's churches.
Although in Berne and Basle, the organ tradition was kept alive, it was really in the 20th century that church music started blossoming again in the Zürich area.
Today, Switzerland is famous for its church organs and since this revival, a large number of works have been written by a considerable group of diversely gifted composers. Some of them are household names, but others are still languishing in obscurity, so this marvellous anthology is not only very welcome, but attractive, interesting and well worth exploring.
With the exception of Martin's Passacaille and Beck's Two Preludes, all the pieces recorded here are distinguished for their brevity. Nonetheless the music they embrace is imaginative, original and very often, strictly contrapuntal and chromatic. The programme has also a memorable mix of grandiosity and contemplation.
Jeremy Filsell's outstanding natural ability allows him to surmount all the technical demands with a poetic élan that rewards the attentive listener with many surprises. The rich sound of the Kirche Kusnacht Organ combined with its opulence adds to the enjoyment of these unknown yet meticulously written pieces. Atmospheric sound and informative notes complete a disc which should inject new interest in this often neglected but fascinating repertoire.
Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech