A Viennese CD Series
Review for "The Organ Club Journal" (2016-II)
Members who took part in the Club's legendary 2003 "Danube Tour" will recall the Augustinian Church, one of our Viennese highlights. The current principal organist, Professor Wolfgang Capek, kindly welcomed the Bournemouth Organists to his church on the "Viennese Tour" I organised for them last year, and I received particularly enthusiastic reports on his playing. It was one of my "remote-controlled" tours, i.e. I did not accompany the group personally - they managed with maps, instruction sheets and some friendly help from my colleagues on the spot!
Intrigued by such praise, I finally managed to hear Professor Capek in action on my visit to Vienna this Easter. The occasion was a 90-minute High Mass in the Church on Low Sunday; the choir and soloists performing, amongst other works, Schubert's C Major Mass, and Wolfgang Capek giving a stunning performance of Dupré's "Résurrection" as a voluntary.
This reminded me of how impressive the organ was too, and I acquired one of the discs in the extensive series featuring the Augustinian Church choir, their orchestra and some of the church's various organists. They represent typical Sunday services and thus largely feature Masses by Mozart, Haydn and Schubert, but also by Beethoven, Gounod and Puccini, and usually include various motets. Obviously, not all of these include the organ. However, there are also CDs featuring trumpet and organ, plus the exciting-looking disc "Große Postludien in St. Augustin" played by Wolfgang Capek (Bach, Franck, Lefébure-Wély, Elgar, Schmidt, Saint-Saëns, Vierne, Widor, Capek, Mailly and Mulet).
The CD in my hands is quite a discovery. The choral works are Widor's "Messe solonnelle" in F# minor as well as Vierne's "Messe solonnelle" in C# minor. More than that: we also get Widor's "Regina cli", Saint-Saëns' "Ave verum" and Vierne's "Tantum ergo". To crown it all - in my eyes - the organist plays Widor's "Marche pontificale" (1st Symphony) and "Intermezzo" (6th Symphony), plus Vierne's "Scherzo" (2nd Symphony) and "Finale" (3rd Symphony).
This makes for magnificent listening. There is stupendous, vigorous playing using plenty of reeds, and a very accomplished choir - conducted by Robert Rieder - capable of a wide dynamic and expressive range. The recording was made in 2013 and provides sufficient acoustic clarity while not being uncomfortably close to the voices.
It is interesting to regard all these works in a liturgical context; interesting too, to hear settings of the Mass which feature the organ so prominently. In the booklet I read that the Widor Mass was originally written for two choirs and two organs, while the Vierne Mass was composed for choir and two organs - Vierne and Widor playing the organs at the première in Saint-Sulpice. However, on this recording versions for a single organ have been chosen.
The booklet is in German and English and is enjoyably informative despite one slight historical inaccuracy (Beethoven was a pupil of Albrechtsberger, not vice versa). This series reflects the unbroken tradition of Roman Catholic church music on the Continent. The CDs are available via the "Hochamt" website, where you can listen to snippets first, and cost EUR 15 each.
I'm looking forward to hearing Wolfgang Capek's solo CD played on this organ, a 1976 Rieger IV/47, which was overhauled by Eisenbarth in 2002, just before the Club's visit. The specification is not on the Augustine Church website, but can be seen on the link below.
Tales of a Travelling Dep(p) * (1) "The Credible Queen"
Article for "The Organ Club Journal" (2012-II)
* "Depp" is a dialect word and can be roughly translated as "twit". Maybe it is folly that continually propels one out and into the unkown
On New Year's Eve 2011 I was sitting in my hostel at 17.23 just beginning my tea (lovely hot tea with thick cream in it and some bread and cheese) and looking forward to some festivities, when my mobile rang. It was a colleague: "Can you get to the 'xyz' church for 18:00?". Change of plan
As so often around the festive season, I was depping in Vienna, staying at the the Hostel Ruthensteiner - fairly near the Westbahnhof tube station. The church in question was only a few stations away, near the Cathedral and the Stephansplatz station. Still, it was a panic to clear away my tea, rush upstairs to my dorm, grab music etc., get all my warm jackets on and run down the road to the station. I knew I might have no choice but to "overshoot" to Stubentor (the next stop) and run back, because on New Year's Eve they close down the Stephansplatz station at some point for security reasons. In that case I reckoned to reach the church at about 17:56.
Fortunately, Stephansplatz was still open. Unfortunately, the whole area was rapidly filling up with merrymakers, making it increasingly difficult to run. Somehow I arrived at the church at 17:46! This was good, because although I had heard the organ I had never seen the console. The first challenge, however, consisted of searching a dark courtyard for the outside entrance to the sacristy, as all the doors inside the church were locked.
I ran into the sacristy and introduced myself to the sacristan. He took me into the church and a kind lady appeared and gave me a hymn list. The sacristan unlocked the door to the gallery and I ran up, found all the relevant switches and checked out which manual was which. At that moment another kind lady rushed up to the gallery and told me that I wouldn't need to play any music at the Communion because they would play some music on a CD. I finally managed to get the first hymn and an appropriate prelude lined up just before the Mass bell sounded. So far, so good, and nothing really out of the ordinary for a dep. But the real fun was about to begin
After the Gloria the entire music desk, including the big heavy Gotteslob hymn book 1), my clipboard etc., suddenly detached itself from the console and crashed down onto my knees. I got enormous bruises! I examined the desk and saw that it had only been glued on. Well, one day it would have fallen down anyway. It was not possible to stick it back or anything. (I normally have small screwdrivers, sellotape, elastic bands, paper clips etc. in my music case - but not an electric drill.) I put it on the floor and wondered how to play the rest of the Mass. In a dark corner of the gallery I discovered an antique music stand made of metal. I dragged it round to the organ, but it proved to be too tall and too stiff to adjust - and there was no way of getting it close enough to the bench to really read from.
Time was running out and I had to play the Hallelujah next, so I decided to continue with the Gotteslob lying beside me on the organ bench. So in addition to the injured knees I got a bad pain in my neck. The final voluntary and one of the hymn preludes, however, were photocopies of mine, and I was able to peg them onto a bit of loose wood hanging above my head in front of the lamp. (I always have several clothes pegs with me.) Hard to see so high up and with the bulb shining through the paper, but a change from the twisted neck.
Anyway, when the Communion began I was prepared to hear the worst: pop music, Taizé, or something "homemade". However, Kind Lady No. 2 announced that she would play a CD of Mozart! My first thought was, "But I can also play Mozart!" My second was, "What kind of organists do they normally have here, if they prefer no live music at the Communion, but bring CDs?"
So I drew the stops for the following hymn and sat down at the front of the gallery to take a rest. However, nothing happened. After several minutes it seemed that there was something wrong with the CD or the CD player! Suddenly the priest turned round and waved up at me: "Spielen Sie uns etwas!" 2) he commanded.
Well, fine ... I sprinted back to the organ, pushed in all the stops except the 8' flutes on both manuals, and played a piece of Handel that happened to be lying on the top of my music pile on the bench. (I would have had a nice arrangement of Mozart's Ave Verum but that was not quite so handy, considering that the Communion was almost over anyway.)
But the tale isn't over yet! In the middle of the sermon I had been obliged to sneak down from the gallery to consult one of the Kind Ladies. There was a misprint on the hymn list! The title and the number of verses for the final hymn were indicated, but there was no hymn number; there had been no time to study the list in detail before beginning, so while running up the spiral steps I had merely glanced through it and mentally prepared the first part of the Mass. The name of the hymn in question - "Glaubwürdige Königin" ("Credible Queen") was a new one on me, and of course it was not listed in the Gotteslob, the standard RC hymn book.
Thinking it could be one of those local favourites on a faint photocopy or dog-eared manuscript, I had first raided the music cupboard next to the organ (which turned out to contain a surprising quantity of Hungarian hymns, but nothing resembling "Credible Queen" in any language known to me), but to no avail. However, after a lot of head-scratching and page-flipping under the wary eye of the preaching priest, we finally construed that the hymn must surely be "Glorwürdige Königin" ("Queen worthy of glory") - indeed a regional favourite, as it is in the Viennese RC hymn book but not the Bavarian one
we found the number in the Diocesan appendix and I raced back up to the gallery. As the congregation had been issued with the identical hymn list someone had to announce the correction when the time came, which caused some amused eyebrow-raising!
Before the final blessing the priest specially thanked me for my "fine playing" and for the fact that I had played the correct hymns, jumped in at the last second etc.
After the final voluntary I took the enormous solid wooden music desk down with me to hand over to the sacristan. Because I know from experience as a dep that if you only report "xyz is broken" this may make little impression, or they may just forget it. I walked through the church where all the Kind Ladies were waiting to congratulate me. Then they spotted the gigantic piece of wood I was carrying under my arm! I said they were lucky I was able to play any music at all after the Gloria!
1) measuring approx. 30x23x5 cm when closed and weighing in at over 2 kilos, as mentioned in my OCJ 2011 article
2) "Play us something!"