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Thursday, September 21, 2023

Robert Schumann, The Roots & the Flower, Organ Works, Op. 56 & 60, Jens E. Christensen, Organ


Robert Schumann at this point in music history has a legacy that is of course ubiquitous and well established. He is unparalleled for the clarity of his piano style in the many now well loved solo tone poetic pieces for piano. Then too his Lieder is superb, and puts him at the very top of Romantic composers for such things,  and then his Piano Concerto and Symphonies are justly among the most beloved today, a considerable body of work and a long prevailing fulcrum of the repertoire classics, as popular today as yesterday.  In spite of all that we might see in contrast how his organ works might not have broken through to the cognoscenti in our times, or at least I have not been exposed much myself. Schumann familiarly as the old saw has it is not exactly an orchestrator of landmark character if we go by his symphonic reputation over time. However the symphonies are melodically and thematically seminal, perhaps less so as orchestrations, at least in terms of a Ravelian vibrancy say, though very much Schumann's own. And that different kind of vibrancy, of theme and even its descriptive character can be felt so plainly on the "Kinderszenen," the "Carnival," etc.

So what of the twelve organ works from this album we consider today? They are not models of sound color invention exactly. Nonetheless we get a happy chance to dive deeply into Robert Schumann the organ composer and what that means with the works from Op. 56 and 60 on the recent album  The Roots and the Flowers, performed nicely by Jens E. Christensen (Our Recordings 6220676). Some of it now and then seems a tad murkey, not as transparent perhaps as one might ordinarily expect, yet supremely moody and Schumannesque in that way. And so there is a parallel at times perhaps with the very personal styles of his symphonies. Yet then we need to consider the subtitle to this offering, "Counterpoint in Bloom," for that is a special key to appreciating this music, Schumann's well developed sense of the contrapuntal muse as a key aspect of this organ music.

These some 12 works shine often via a contrapuntal flourish. It is part of Schuman's genius and indeed sets it apart as classic in its best moments.

The performances are not lacking in any way thanks to Jens E Christensen's prowess and enthusiastic warmth. There are some real gems here and otherwise generally solid and memorable music well constructed. Anyone a Schumann fan will jump at the chance to hear him in this mode, and you doubtless as I did feel the rewards of the adventure.. Organ aficionados with find it a fascinating listen as well!

Listen to a partial stream on Soundcloud

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