The Organ

Simon Johnson – St Paul’s Cathedral Virtuosi series

Tage Alter Musik Regensburg
May 21-24 2010

Tage Alter Musik Regensburg

For an intense early music fix in a delightful historic German town, the annual Tage Alter Musik Regensburg festival takes some beating, with 14 concerts in 4 days in spectacular surroundings.

This year the music ranged from the early 1400s to Beethoven and Schubert, the latter two in a concert featuring the world-famous Regensburger Domspatzen, founded in the year 975. Amongst the highlights was the late-night concert of 15th century music (starting at 10.45, and finishing at 12.30!) by the Swiss group La Morra. A notable feature of this concert was the tinkling, but powerful sound of the tiny Clavisimbalum, an early form of the harpsichord described by Henri Arnaut de Zwolle around 1440.

The Belgian group Graindelavoix focussed on a slightly later repertoire, with Nicolas Champion’s Missa de Sancta Maria Magdelena. Capella de la Torre (from Germany) included a version of Correa de Aroujo’s organ Tiento para dos tiples in an arrangement for shawm and cornet, producing sounds that are not too far from that of the distinctive Spanish organ reeds stops. More Iberian music came from A Corte Musical (from Switzerland) and their programme of Portuguese music. The Brazilian group Anima gave an intriguing concert based on the historical and mythical figure of The Warrior Maiden. The UK was represented by Ensemble Plus Ultra and His Majestys Sagbutts and Cornetts and their stunning performance of Guerrero’s Missa Super flumina Babylonis. A showcase of musical instrument manufactures included some lovely looking Portative organs.

One concert from the Tage Alter Musik Regensburg of special interest to readers of The Organ Magazine was that given on May 24 by the Barcelona based group Tasto Solo. They focus on the keyboard repertoire of the 14th and 15th centuries, using the Clavisimbalum, Portative organ (Organetto), harp and, at least on their CD (Meyster ob Allen Meystern – Conrad Paumann and the 15th century German keyboard school), a reconstruction of a large Gothic Positive organ, although their concert in the Schottenkirche St Jakob had to replace the latter with a continuo box organ.

As they mentioned in their introduction, they were performing their repertoire (from the Buxheimer Orgelbuch and the Lochamer Liederbuch) close to its origin – the Buxheimer Orgelbuch is in the Munich Staatsbibliotek, and Paumann himself was born in nearby Nuremburg and is buried in Munich’s Frauenkirche. As well as compiling the Buxheimer Orgelbuch, the blind Paumann was a renowned organist. Their concert was based on their CD, but they successfully segued the individual pieces into a couple of unbroken sequences, neatly contrasting and combining the four instruments.

Of course, the Portative organ allows the player to swell notes, add vibrato, change the tone of a note, add a dying fall to a note and to accent individual notes, all by the action of the hand on the bellows. This was used to splendid effect by Guillermo Pérez, the group’s director. David Catalunya also excelled on the Clavisimbalum. They made effective use of the space, playing two Portative pieces from the back of the church.

Andrew Benson-Wilson