Elements of Bach - Krahl
Ars Produktion ARS 38 361
Classical - Instrumental
Works by Bach, Liszt, Reger
Johannes Krahl (organ of Dom St Petri in Bautzen)
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Review by Adrian Quanjer - February 19, 2023
As a child, I was, like Johann Sebastian Bach, convinced that there was no nobler instrument than the organ. In my reasoning, it would otherwise not have been the instrument of choice in the church. However, beautiful though it was in such surroundings, listening to the same instrument at home was a disaster. Existing sound systems were unable to reproduce the wide dynamics and extended frequency range. Those days are long gone. But it is too simple to believe that now any system will do. The might of a grand organ needs a qualitative top-class set-up, preferably in surround, to allow the sound to come to full bloom. For the Super Audio freaks that make up the core of the HRAudio niche crowd that shouldn’t be a problem. And if that’s the case, Johannes Krahl, has something special in store. A selection of some of the best Bach has written for the Queen of Instruments and some by those inspired by his oeuvre.
Krahl is a young and coming organist, currently studying Church Music and Orchestra Conducting at the “Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy“ University of Music and Theatre in Leipzig, Germany, the heart of a region boasting many, including some 350 historical church organs. However, born in Bautzen, one of Germany’s best-preserved medieval towns with cobbled streets and medieval towers in Eastern Saxony, it seemed a natural choice to record his debut album playing the Hermann Eule organ of the Saint Petri Cathedral, the oldest bi-confessional church in Germany. The wooden Jugendstil front side of this remarkable instrument has a traditional look though the organ was built as recently as 1910 and was thoroughly restored to its original glory in 2017/18. Details and dispositions are listed in the booklet. For those who want to know more, I refer to https://www.euleorgelbau.de/wp-content/uploads/2022/09/AO_03_2020.pdf (German only) giving a host of interesting information about the instrument, its restoration, and some elements about organ building in general.
My listening tests confirm that Krahl is a sublime organist. And also that the Hermann Eule organ is as remarkable as suggested in the above information, due to the clever use of old and new techniques. The sound is warm and pleasant, and certainly not as aggressive as some less well-manufactured organs can sound. Moreover, Franz Liszt’s and Max Reger’s contributions to this recital demonstrate the sublime ‘romantic’ capability of the organ. Much, however, do we owe to Johannes Krahl and, not least, to Manfred Schumacher who engineered this difficult-to-capture glorious sound on location.
There is one thing though which I haven’t noted before, at least not to the same extent: The huge range of the volume. Krahl makes comprehensive use of this facility. Some will be surprised -as I was- though others will jump to adjust the volume of their amplifier to compensate for a sudden whispering sound. A way to alleviate it is to set the volume according to the softest passage and subsequently enjoy the full (surround) power of the loudest. It may be clear that your system must be able to handle it. If so, a memorable recital will be yours!
Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France.
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