The Organ

Sweelinck - Der Organistenmacher

Léon Berben at the Organ of St Jaques, Lüttich (Liège)
Edition Raumklang RK 2205

We have had two recent and fine releases of Sweelinck's music, Herrick (Hyperion) and Woolley (Chandos). Thus the timing of this disc would seem most opportune particularly as it provides a different perspective on Sweelinck, that of influential teacher and 'maker of organists'. Music by Sweelinck himself is featured in the midst of works by his pupils Heinrich Scheidemann, Melchior Schildt, Paul Siefert and Dirk Sweelinck, some of which could be described as routine, although the Scheidermann Praeambulum 6 which opens the disc is given an exciting performance and is an excellent opener; likewise the same composer's Praeambulum 8 which ends the disc, the organ sounding particularly immediate and the playing precise.

The instrument, dating back to 1600 is the work of Niehoff or Hocque and was rebuilt in 1998 by Orgelbau Schumacher, is in particularly good order, sounding very fine in its building and Berben's registrations work well.

Raumklang defines itself as an audiophile label and the packaging proclaims a 'direct to master' approach, from which we can expect outstanding preservation of the original signal. That is precisely what we get, and it is perhaps a little 'up-front' but certainly detailed and bold. This approach does put the player's technique ruthlessly under the microscope, but Berben's playing is able to stand up to this from a technical point of view, although it does begin to feel a little lumpy and matter-of-fact after extended listening. A specialised release then, but with this in mind the programme notes are perhaps a little concise.