The Vinyl Anachronist
For many audiophiles, there's nothing like the sound of a big pipe organ in a big church. That's the traditional test for full range speakers -- can they produce that famous 16 Hz tone from a 32' pipe? There's no other acoustic musical instrument that has that wide of a frequency response, or at least none I'm aware of, and there's no other instrument that can naturally produce such a huge sound field since the pipes take up so much physical space. It's quite an experience to sit in an old church and hear one of the world's great pipe organs create tones that seem to come at you from all directions. Recreating that immense space in a recording is one of those Holy Grails for high-end audio.
That said, I'm kind of indifferent about the pipe organ as a musical instrument. I have audiophile friends who absolutely adore it and I can totally understand why -- it creates such a singularly impressive sound. It's a veritable goose-bump machine. And I get that -- I have a few Virgil Fox LPs at home and I like to trot them out once in a while to wow my buddies. But for me, true pipe organ music tends to fit into two categories -- the spooky and the sacred. In my opinion, that limits its appeal. For an instrument that such an enormous frequency response, it's a shame that I feel that way.
Leave it to 2L in Norway to change my mind. Organism features three unique pipe organ pieces from composers Kjell Mork Karlsen, Trygve Madsen, and Kjell Flem, all performed by Terje Winge -- the Professor of Organ at the Norwegian Academy of Music. These composers have obviously been informed by the sacred side of the pipe organ canon, with specific references made to Gregorian chants and the Lutheran chorale traditions. And a significant portion of this album sounds like the type of pipe organ you would typically hear in a church, albeit a Scandinavian one (in this instance, the Alesund Church in Norway).
But there are moments, especially in the quieter passages, where the music launches on a secular tangent and starts evoking feelings and visuals far outside of the Christian liturgy. The air traveling through those pipes meander and crawl around the room and start to dig in with prying fingers--sadness, despair, unease, and worry. These emotions aren't necessarily alien to the ideas behind the hymnal, but it's odd to let your mind wander in and out of these notes, out the door and into mysterious and troublesome landscapes where anything can happen.
That sounds a bit fanciful, but that's my reaction to this strange and haunting organ music. It took my mind to places where it hasn't been before and definitely engaged me in an unprecedented way. It's so easy to become lost in these gigantic sounds, to ride a roller coaster of dynamics and find yourself alternately soothed and excited by what you hear. I couldn't imagine being at a church service and hearing these pieces played. What the hell kind of church is this?
On top of all that, you have Morten Lindberg of 2L performing his magic. 2L has upped the ante for recording techniques. In other words, the recording Organism will envelop you in exactly the same way as the actual recording in the church. If you're the type of audiophile who's looking for that big pipe organ recording to really wow your buddies, this is it. But if you're like me, looking for an emotional entry point into this fascinating musical instrument, you'll be really, really surprised by Organism.
Air. That's the key word. While the label ECM starts its albums with a 3-second break, Organism starts with air. Namely the air that is blown from the bellows into the organ pipes. A breeze of technique that precedes the first organ sounds, announces them and at the same time reveals that lack of detail will certainly not be an issue in this album.
And then Terje Winge grabs the keys. Sonata de Profundis, op. 143, sentence 1 - De profundis clamavis by Kjell Mork Karlsen. Do you not know her? Me neither, until now. But if you want your speakers to be thunderstruck and find themselves in that state, turn the volume up to the concert level and press Play.
A barrage of organ flutes pours into the room. And as you listen to the many whistles and whistles, something starts to shake up from the underground. Organs have damn deep pipes, and good speakers speak their frequencies aloud in the room. Only that this phenomenon is partly already in the borderline of the audible plays. With corresponding surprises, if you can then perceive it centrally in the stomach. Holla Hopp!
In fact, this recording is very dynamic and very clear and tidy. This is a lot of fun, even if organs are not listed in the catalog of personal favorite instruments - the challenge of the material are martial as soon as the volume leaves the neighborhood-compatible area of ??the chamber music. And the appeal is great ...
In total, the 50-year-old organist Winge recorded plays by three Norwegian composers in the Ålesund church. In addition to the already mentioned, in parts challenging Sonata de Profundis by Kjell Mørk Karlsen also La Tombeau de Dupre, op 62 by Trygve Madsen and Ecclesia in mundo by Kjell Flem.
Le Tombeau de Dupre takes care of the relaxed part of the album. The composition is more melodic and uses hardly any dissonance, although it does not consistently provide tame cuddly acoustics. Behavior modern would probably be a fitting description, and also here the label 2L organ sounds in exquisite acoustic quality.
Of course this also applies to Ecclesia in mundo by Kjell Flem. The atmospherically dense composition elicits with its runs and pipe settings the sounding bellows partly exotic-tinged sounds. It extends the view of the classic church utensil and moves the organ a little way from the aging Sonntagseinerlei from the worn hymnal on the benches.
Organism by organist Terje Winge gives an interesting insight into current Norwegian organ compositions, expands the horizon and delivers more than a good hour of exciting music in first-class sound. The conclusion falls to the sacral character today pay homage to Latin: Quod have aures audiendi audiat! (He who has ears to hear, listen!)
Theater Byte -
Organism contains three pieces for organ by three contemporary Norwegian composers that have appeared in the past twenty years.
Kjell Mark Karlsen is a very versatile musician who has mastered the gamut of keyboard instruments as well as the oboe and recorder. An accomplished organist, Karlsen’s work for this “king of instruments” is strongly influenced by the Lutheran church music tradition. “De profundis” takes its title from Psalm 130 (De profundis clamavi ad te, Domine) and in this case, is the opening movement of an organ sonata. It is followed by “Monodi,” from the Greek monodos or someone singing alone, and has a funereal theme. The finale is “Aus tiefer Not,” Martin Luther’s German translation of “De profundis,” and is in the form of a toccata that features a hymn-like theme.
Trygve Madsen is the dean of this group and has written in nearly every musical genre. As judged by the title of this five-movement work, Madsen frequently pays homage to his musical forebears, in this case, French organist/composer Marcel Dupré. This piece takes the form of the traditional French organ symphony in which the composer fashions an opening musical theme with notes on the letters of MARCEL and has a fourth movement “Cantabile” that has echoes of Bach’s famous “air.”
The concluding and longest work on this program is Kjell Flem’s “Ecclesia in mundo.” Its three movements are clearly informed by its connection with the Christian church as suggested by the title of the first movement that is derived from “Ecclesia in mundo huius temporis,” also known as the Pastoral Constitution. The second movement, “Communion,” refers to the usually contemplative organ music that is played during the act itself. The piece concludes with “Jubilus” that as its title suggests builds to a grand finale.
It was certainly wise on 2L’s part to entrust these three works to Terje Winge who is a well-recognized master of the organ in Norway and has been concertizing for more than four decades. His close connection with these pieces is obvious and is reflected in what must be considered definitive performances on the Alesund Church’s magnificent instrument.
Organism offers an outstanding program of contemporary organ music written by Norwegian composers and performers.
Fanciers of organ recitals should surely relish this album with its outstanding sound and virtuoso performances of repertory that might well be unfamiliar yet sound familiar at the same time. Highly recommended.
Audiophile Audition -
The organ music on this album is written by three composers with different musical backgrounds, who give us excellent contemporary music for organ.
Trygve Madsen studied with organist-composer Egil Hovland, one of the 20th century’s most significant pioneers in the field of church music. Kjell Mørk Karlsen grew up in a rich church music milieu, inspired by his father, Rolf Karlsen, who was Oslo cathedral organist for over fifteen years. Kjell Flem studied piano and organ, gaining a close knowledge of the organ’s technical and musical possibilities.
Included on the disc are:
1 Kjell Mark Karlsen: Sonata “De profundis”, Op. 142 (21:13)
2 Trygve Madsen: Le Tombeau de Dupré, Op. 62 (22:30)
3 Kjell Flem: Ecclesia in mundo (25:35)
As is always the case with 2L, this is a beautiful recording. The organist on this disc is Terje Winge, born in 1950, Winge is Professor of Organ at the Norwegian Academy of Music, where he has taught since the early 1980s. He received his own organ education from the Norwegian organists Ludvig Nielsen and Arild Sandvold, before studying with Jiri Reinberger in Prague and Gaston Litaize in Paris.
These are superb performances of these contemporary organ works. I would say the most affecting work on the disc is the Ecclesia in Mundo, which is a deeply religious or spiritual work and it was lovely, but all three composers have produced notable compositions.
The organ used is at the Ålesund Church, Norway, and the sound is stunning, with deep prodigious bass and shimmering highs. The organ is one of the largest in Norway, with 94 registers, 5 manuals, and nearly 8,000 pipes.
In Surround Sound, the recording captures the organ with width and depth in the front channels, while the rear channels give the listener a taste of the marvelous acoustics of the church. My subwoofer was busy during playback, and the bass never sounded muddy or distorted.
If you like organ music, but want to try something contemporary in a first-rate recording, then look no further. These are interesting compositions well played and wonderfully recorded.