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CD Review

Petr Eben

Organ Music - Volume 4

  • Protestant Chorales
  • Sunday Music
  • A Festive Voluntary
  • Choral Fantasy
  • Two Chorale Fantasias
Halger Schiager, organ
Hyperion CDA67197 77m DDD
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When this pioneering cycle arrived at its third instalment a long while ago, I was under the impression that it was a journey's end. Now all of a sudden, Volume 4 comes majestically along. Born in 1929, Petr Eben is one of today's foremost Czech composers. During the war, he was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp but he somehow survived and after the fighting ended, he began to study piano and composition at the Prague Academy of Music.

In 1955, Eben started teaching at Charles University in Prague and since 1990 has been a professor at the Academy. He is famous both as performer and composer and is much sought after as an improviser, both on piano and organ. In 2000, he was awarded an Honorary Fellowship of London's Royal College of Organists.

The heart of this recital lies in the Protestant Chorales and Sunday Music, extraordinarily performed by the Norwegian organist, Holger Schiager, whose advocacy for these unique 20th century compositions is profoundly zealous. In all truth, I find praise for these interpretations quite superfluous, as Schiager is truly able to penetrate into the core of these pieces with exceptional ability.

The sound emanating from the Organ of Hedvig Eleonora Kyrkan in Stockholm is broad, rich and imperially sonorous despite its relatively young age (it was built in 1975/76). The reason for this is maybe due to the fact that it was assembled from old pipe material from 1868, 1908 and 1948. Vrubel's 'Six Winged Seraph' (1904) on the front of the inlay card plus the composer's extraordinary notes makes this issue a strong contender for disc of the year in the organ field.

Copyright © 2005, Gerald Fenech