Very welcome to all visitors of “The art of german organ-playing”

Porträt Andreas Arand
Porträt Andreas Arand

And especially to all enthousiasts of organplaying, to all those, who are interested in interpretation of classical organmusic, to all people, who are passionated by the marvellous repertoire of the pipe-organ, created during more than 800 years!

You are now listening to Track1 of Max Reger/ Zweite Sonate First Mouvement “Improvisation”/Beginning.

Today, this 11.05.2016, exactly hundred years are over since the death of the famous german composer Max Reger.
Isn’t it a fine date to start with this homepage?

The art of german organ-playing!

Is’nt it exagerated, can one imagine, the realisation of a score in organ-music is an art in the real sense of the term?

I think so. It’s not correct to suppose, interpretation is only the realisation of all signs in the score. The score of each masterpiece transports a lot of hermetic information. And to reach a serious interpretation, the interpreter has not only to be a good musician, but he has “to live” in the world of the composer. That means, it’s necessary to enter in all relevant aspects of the situation of the composer, included the emotional aspects.

And even more: can one imagine, it exists a special art of german organ-playing? Which can be contrasted to french, italian, english etc. art of organ-playing?

I think so, too. I think it is very easy to explain: Among all other classical instruments, the pipe-organ and its music is the only one with exclusively regional character. During the centuries we don’t have only very special stiles of french, italian, german organ-music, but in these countries we find a lot of regional types, which are often rather significant and contrasted. Among all these countries Germany is extremely devided in many very different stiles of organ-building and organ-music. It’s not rare in Germany, that there are characteristic specialities in a region of 50 km distance to others. And a very important factor must be added: in no other country there were (and there are) so different kinds of christian communties with very different function of  the organ. And one can say, that in the most protestantic communities, which are very numerous and important in Germany, the role of the organ is much more important as in roman-catholic church. That’s the reason for the extremely different stiles of organ-music and of course organ-building. And all these famous composers as Johann Pachelbel, Nikolaus Bruhns, Samuel Scheidt, Dieterich Buxtehude, Georg Muffat, Johann Sebastian Bach were actif in a very special organ-culture, and their compositions are only to understand in their special function.

I am a german organist. Organ-music and the traditionel ‘Kirchenlied’ (Choral) were present in my life since the earliest childhoud. “Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten“, “Lobe den Herrn“, “Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme” I sung in the church long before I got to know something about  J.S. Bach! Is it possible to have any doubt, that this atmosphere constituts an important base for the later professionel organplaying?

It is not correct to suppose, interpretation is only a realization of all signs in the score. The score of each masterpiece transports a lot of hermetic information, and to reach a serious interpretation, the interpreter has to be not only a good musician, but he has ‘to live’ in the composers world. That means, it is inevitable to enter in all relevant aspects of the situation of the composer, including the emotional ones. Naturally interpretation is expression of a subjective opinion of the interpreter: there is no interpretation, which is correct, true in a sense of objectivity. In spite of this fact many details in execution of the score can be juged as correct or not, if we suppose, that the composition has to be realized in the manner intended by the composer. Gerd Zacher and Jacobus Kloppers published remarkable reflections about this matter.

The serious interpreter has to observe the difference between interpretation and arrangement! Helmut Walcha said, the organist is the creator of the “Klangleib”, that means the “body of sound”. The score itself is meaningless, it is the interpreter, who gives life to the written signs of the score.

So I wish to invite you, the enthousiasts, the ‘melomanes’, the ‘Liebhaber’ of classical organmusic to visit this homepage whenever it is, this homepage, which starts in commemoration of the death of Max Reger. I intend to present you some classical organmusic to hear, accompagnied by information about german organ-tradition, full of hope, you like it. Let’s go!

Max Reger as composer was especially “german”. When he begun, compositions for organ were not current. Symphonic music, chamber-music, opera, piano-music were pre-domminated, but Reger developed his manner of composition in the field of organ-music. And here the friendship with Karl Straube, the later Thomaskantor in Leipzig, played an important role. Straube was not only the most famous ‘Orgelvirtuose’ in Germany, but also the most eminent organ-teacher: many respected organists studied with him as Günter Ramin, Hans Klotz, Heinz Wunderlich, Michael Schneider and many others. In Germany we say ‘Straube-Schule’, that means the tradition of organ-playing in the manner created by Straube. In the case of Reger the role of Straube is very significant. The interpretation of Reger’s compositions impose, that the interpreter plays with “Ausdruck”. This term is very german. Generally it means “con espressione”, but in case of Reger it means expression in german tradition. If you want to know, what it is, you must hear Wilhelm Furtwängler playing the piano-part in Bach’s Brandenburgisches Konzert Nr. 5, that’s “Ausdruck”.

All this concerns my own person. It was a big chance for me to study with Michael Schneider in the Musikhochule in Köln, especially for interpretation of Regers organ-works; this was extremly important for me. During my career as practical organist I however distanced from serveral traditions in the Reger-playing, but the direct experience of the Straube-tradition is irreplacable for me.

So I will present you here my interpretation of two famous organ-works of Max Reger: op.46 Phantasie und Fuge über BACH and op.60 Zweite Sonate. The live-recording was taken in a recital at the organ of  Maria Magdalena in Bonn-Endenich. This instrument gives a rather good impression of the organ-sound in the time of Reger, because it contains many original stops made by the organ-builders Georg Stahlhut and Johannes Klais, realized in the epoque of Reger.

And I am a little proud, that Maestro Michael Schneider assisted this concert. And I remember very well, that he didn’t agree some details in my interpretation of the Sonata op.60, while he was very satified with the Phantasie und Fuge op.46 (I know very well the reasons for his critics concerning op.60: I -very intentional!- violated some axioms of the ‘Tradition’!

The two operas op.46 and op.60 are rather different in stilistic matter. Op.46 reachs the limits of “Ausdruck” and “Überschwang”, op.60 is more “gemäßigt”, more classical, more disciplinated. But both represent the very outstanding level of Regers compositions for the organ in the beginning of the 20th. century. I hope you like it. Actually only a few extracts of the recordings are available, but I will try to present you the wholes pieces as soon as possible.

Andreas Arand, 2016