What started as a short survey of Petr Eben's organ works is now well on its way to becoming a truly comprehensive cycle. This Volume 5 embraces some original and beautiful pieces, marked by some lofty thoughts and deep spiritual content.
One must always remember that Eben suffered as a Jew when in 1943, he was sent to the infamous concentration camp at Buchenwald when he was only 14 years old. This harrowing experience left a scar on his soul, and many of his compositions are a moving testimony of his deep faith in God and a better life.
One of the two maon works on this disc is 'Landscapes of Patmos' for organ and percussion, composed in 1984. Patmos is a Greek island where John the Evangelist is said to have been exiled and where he died in his eighties. Hence Eben's inspiration turned to the Book of Revelations, where in a perfect sound world which is both festive and dramatic, he gives us a perfect picture of the Apocalypse's main message, the glory of God's Kingdom and the renewal of all creation at the end of time.
The other substantial work on this disc is 'Okna' (Windows), one of Eben's most frequently performed works. Written in 1976 for the delightful combination of organ and trumpet, it is the result of the strong impact left on the composer by Chagall's stained glass windows. Each of the four pieces is dominated by a particular colour and is dedicated to one of four of the 12 tribes of Israel. One might take the title to represent the source of light, but in adding the bright sound of the trumpet, Eben wanted to intensify both the spiritual and dramatic substance of the work.
The other four pieces in the programme make compelling listening despite their short time span. Halgeir Schiager, as in previous issues, gives towering performances on the Organ of Medvig Kyrkan of Stockholm, whose relatively young age (built in 1975-76) does not preclude it from emanating the most marvellous of sounds. The accompanying soloists give the album that final touch of peerless virtuosity.
Copyright © 2006, Gerald Fenech