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Michaela Káčerková


F10253   [8595017425325]   released 8/2020

Joseph Renner: Sonáta g moll op. 29
Sigfrid Karg-Elert: Choral-Improvisationen op. 65/38: Jesu, meine Freude (Passacaglia)
Otomar Kvěch: Malá suita pro varhany (A Little Suite For Organ)
Johann Sebastian Bach: Passacaglia c moll BWV 582
Franz Liszt: Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen. Variace na téma J. S. Bacha S.673 

Organ in the curch of Saint Joachim built by G. F. Steinmeyer & Co, 1875 (Oettingen, a town in Bavaria)   

play all Historical Organ in Jachymov 73:48
Sonata g moll - Praeludium
Sonata g moll - Romanze
Sonata g moll - Fuge
Choral Improvisationen op.65/38
Malá suita pro varhany - Allegro non tanto
Malá suita pro varhany - Adagio
Malá suita pro varhany - Allegro
Passacaglia c moll BWV582
Passacaglia c moll - Fuga
Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen. S673

Joseph Renner (1868–1934) spent his life and career almost exclusively in Bavaria. He was an acclaimed organist and teacher and also the organ expert for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Regensburg, where he was born and studied. His father, Joseph Renner Sr., was also a musician who was active mainly in the field of sacred music. Joseph Renner Jr. attained a professorship at the Kirchenmusikschule Regensburg, today known as the College of Catholic Church Music and Musical Education in Regensburg. He composed several Masses, a Requiem, and other compositions based on Latin liturgical texts as well as songs and choruses for male voices. In his day, his organ works and sacred music were highly regarded in Regensburg, Munich, and the wider vicinity. He gained less attention and acclaim for his secular works, including a string quartet, Romantic Overture, and even a singspiel with the title Joseph Haydn. Renner also worked as a music critic and journalist; one of the subjects to which he devoted long-term attention was the music of his former teacher in Munich, Joseph Rheinberger, an organist from Liechtenstein and the composer of organ music as well as orchestral and vocal works. Besides Renner Jr., Rheinberger’s pupils also included Max Bruch, Engelbert Humperdinck, Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari, Richard Strauss, and Wilhelm Furtwängler. For five years before earning the position of cathedral organist in his birthplace, Renner served as choirmaster and music director in Bludenz, a town located in the federal state Vorarlberg in westernmost Austria. It was there that he composed the first of his organ sonatas (1892), which is dedicated to the Parisian organist Alexandre Guilmant. The organ was the departure point for all of his works. He was skilled at combining an emphasis on the art of counterpoint with the colourful harmonies of Romanticism.
The German composer Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877–1933), a graduate of the Leipzig Conservatoire and later a teacher there, focused his attention at first primarily on his playing career as both a superb pianist and an equally skilled player of the concert harmonium. He had an appreciation for that instrument’s special expressive possibilities and the ability to use them. He appeared regularly in Leipzig playing the Kunst-Harmonium, even giving live performances in the early days of radio broadcasting. He began to turn towards composing, at first mainly for piano, after receiving important encouragement from Edvard Grieg. He was acclaimed for his piano music, but also for his vocal and orchestral compositions, organ works, and music for harmonium as well, of course. His arrangements of scenes from Wagner’s operas for solo harmonium and for harmonium and piano are a curious but definitely interesting item in his legacy, and they can be heard on revelatory modern-era recordings. Between the two world wars, he was well known as a composer and organist. In 1930, there was even a multi-day organ festival in London bearing his name. Not long before the end of his life, the ailing Sigfrid Karg-Elert undertook a lengthy American tour during which he also wanted to introduce his new works, but he found himself less than comfortable with the instruments there and with the demands of the presenters, and he returned from the USA with quite a few rather poor newspaper reviews. His health did not help matters, either. In his organ music he discovered new shades of colour, but his compositional style was based on late romanticism – he was not a great innovator. One of his most famous works is the Passacaglia and Fugue on B-A-C-H, a mature late work that is symphonic in scale and freely conceived, but he also composed a number of preludes and postludes and dozens of larger and smaller works employing the melodies of Protestant hymns. His Op. 65 is a compilation of nearly seventy of these, some of which make the impression of improvisation and fantasies, while others use older musical forms. His Op. 38 is an arrangement of the Lutheran chorale “Jesu, meine Freude” (Jesus, my Joy) from the mid-seventeenth century with variations in the form of a passacaglia.
The composer Otomar Kvěch (1950–2018), for years a musical radio broadcasting editor, was also a teacher at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, where he was the head of the music theory department and taught composition and musical analysis. He also taught composition at the Prague Conservatoire. He was regarded as a modern neo-classicist with perfect knowledge of the works of the greatest composers of the past. Relying on old forms, he did not experiment ostentatiously, but he was also free of ties to both historical models and fashionable contemporary trends. He professed to listen to and also write music of a kind that wants to tell a story using a comprehensible, intelligible language. For this reason, he was continually questioning why newly composed classical music had found itself in the unenviable position of languishing at the margin of public interest. He was convinced that the so-called avant-garde composers complaining about the ignorance of their listeners and the conservatism of performers or about the political situation were confident to an unhealthy degree and were unjustified and wrong to disdain the public; in his opinion, these composers needed to look for fault primarily within themselves. This placed him diametrically opposite the position taken by representatives of the New Music movements. In a society surrounded by ubiquitous pop music, he also criticised low artistic standards and the unwillingness to go into deeper ideas and topics. Therefore, even in his magnificent Requiem, Kvěch is looking back at the end of the days when musicians and audiences understood each other and composers were striving for perfection in their works. His artistic orientation is also apparent from the textbook “Základy klasické hudební kompozice” (Fundamentals of Musical Composition) with the subtitle “Poznámky pro budoucí skladatele” (Notes for Future Composers). Kvěch composed symphonies, chamber music, songs, and melodramas as well as dozens of organ works. He also played piano and organ professionally. At the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague, where he studied composition, his graduation project was his Symphony for Organ and Orchestra (1973). His Little Suite for Organ dates from one year earlier.

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750), from the Thuringian town Eisenach, was successively employed at several places in central Germany: as an organist in Arnstadt and Mühlhausen, as the organist and later concertmaster of the court ensemble of the Duke of Weimar, as court Kapellmeister in Cöthen, and for nearly the last thirty years of his life in Leipzig as cantor at the school affiliated with the Thomaskirche, one of the city’s Lutheran churches. He was both a composer and performer, and he joined his contemporary Handel (also German, but then living in England) in bringing the European baroque style to its zenith. The things about Bach’s music that attract listeners are its simple, sublime beauty and self-evident order, and in the case of his cantatas and oratorios written with the theological content of German texts in mind, its depth and timelessness, and in the case of his organ music, its perfect instrumental writing and virtuosity. His rivals regarded his style as bombastic and confusing, but today it is clear that Bach’s mighty polyphony, complex harmonies, and inventive, original approach to intricate musical forms are worthy of admiration. This, incidentally, reflects the fact that he saw himself as a musical scholar. At the same time, however, he was not removed from musical practice. He seems to have gained more recognition from his contemporaries as an expert on the construction and quality of organs. The Passacaglia in C Minor is a composition with a great wealth of melody, harmony, and colour. Its formal layout consists of twenty variations on a repeated theme in the bass line presented in wonderfully imaginative permutations. This is followed immediately by an artful Fugue based on the same theme. Bach created this pairing in ca. 1710; the possibility cannot be ruled out that he wrote it in Arnstadt sometime after having returned from his journey on foot to faraway Lübeck to meet the famed composer and organist Dietrich Buxtehude. 

The life of Franz Liszt (1811–1886) spanned diverse epochs. His teachers were Carl Czerny and Antonio Salieri in Vienna and Anton Reicha in Paris, but he was also a contemporary and the father-in-law of Richard Wagner and the teacher of Hans von Bülow, Eugen d’Albert, Carl Reinecke, and Alexander Siloti. He became one of the best pianists of his day, and the enchantment of his playing and his fame were comparable to that of Paganini. His solo piano compositions range from etudes, waltzes, rhapsodies, ballades, and sonatas to brilliant paraphrases of the music of other composers and even of operas. His works are visionary both with respect to formal aspects of the music and in terms of the difficulty of piano technique employing complicated chordal writing and virtuosic passages. Still, virtuosity is subordinated to content, as is also the case with Liszt’s thirteen symphonic poems, a musical form and genre that he invented. During his tenure as conductor at the court of the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar, Weimar became the most important centre of the New German School of musical Romanticism. Later, Liszt lived in Rome and received ordination to four minor priestly orders, and as his attachment to the Roman Catholic Church, faith, and religious subject matter grew stronger, he enriched his oeuvre with the oratorio Christus and other sacred compositions. Liszt used the theme of the sinfonia of Bach’s cantata BWV 12 “Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen” (Weeping, Lamentation, Worry, Fear, composed in 1714 for Jubilate Sunday, the third Sunday after Easter Sunday according to the Lutheran liturgical calendar) at the end of the 1850s in a Prelude for piano and again a few years later in the vast, brilliant Variations on Weinen, Klagen, Sorgen, Zagen for piano, which concludes with the chorale “Was Gott tut, das ist wohlgetan”. In the version for the King of Instruments, the Variations on a Theme by J. S. Bach takes its place among Liszt’s greatest and best known organ compositions alongside the Prelude and Fugue on B-A-C-H and the gigantic Fantasy and Fugue on the Chorale “Ad nos, ad salutarem undam”.
The Church of Saint Joachim in the town Jáchymov belongs unmistakeably to the region’s German-speaking heritage. Originally built in the late-Gothic and Renaissance style between 1534 and 1540, it was the first Lutheran church in the Lands of the Bohemian Crown. In those days, the town’s name was Sankt Joachimsthal. It bore the royal title of mining town, and it was a centre of silver mining. The town was established in the early sixteenth century on the steep southern slopes of the Ore Mountains at the site of an abandoned settlement named Conradsgrün, which was first mentioned in writing in ca. 1300, during the era of the colonisation activities of the Premonstratensian monastery in Teplá. In spite of widespread destruction, the preserved remnants of Gothic-Renaissance patrician houses remind us of the past importance of what was once the second most populous town in the Kingdom of Bohemia. Thanks to these buildings, the centre of Jáchymov is an urban landmark zone. Of the church’s original structure, the perimeter walls have been preserved, as have the entry portals and the stone doorway of the entrance to the sacristy, which still bears the coat of arms of the town’s founders – the Counts von Schlick. Inside, there also remain some murals from the sixteenth century. Otherwise, the church underwent major renovations several times, first in the Baroque and later in the pseudo-Gothic style after the building was taken over by the Roman Catholic Church after the Battle of White Mountain, when Jáchym Ondřej Šlik and other non-Catholic Bohemian noblemen were executed and the town’s Protestant population departed for nearby Saxony. A few things from the original interior have been preserved to the present, but all of the rest was destroyed by a fire in the town in 1873, including the altar triptych by Lucas Cranach from the period of the Reformation with its scene of the Last Supper. Another victim of the fire was the baroque organ from the period before 1799. The church’s present organ was built in 1875 by G. F. Steinmeyer & Co from Oettingen, a town in Bavaria. It was originally 
a mechanical instrument with two manuals, 26 ranks, and a conical windchest. Alterations were made to the organ in 1908 by the organ builder Christof Müller from Mühlbach (today Pomezí) in the Cheb region. The result was a pneumatic instrument with a conical windchest, and the number of ranks was reduced to 25. Most of the organ’s prospect is decorative in function. The instrument is a masterful demonstration of well-organised, functional structural arrangement. The size of the choir loft was undoubtedly helpful, as it did not hinder the organ builder in any way. The perfect access to every part of the mechanism and to the pipes is advantageous for maintenance, and for this reason, the instrument remains in very good condition to this day. The pneumatic organ console (1908) is another fine demonstration of the craft of organ building. An electric ventilator is the only later addition.
Petr Veber, in April 2020
In 2020, Michaela Káčerková made a second album in a loosely connected series of recordings surveying interesting organs of the region. She has taken an interest in older preserved instruments since her student days. She has travelled to play on these little-known treasures and has enjoyed confronting various types of instruments and searching for a variety of possible approaches to playing. She has also enjoyed expanding her repertoire and rediscovering the seldom played works to which these period instruments lead her. She studied organ at the Prague Conservatoire under Jan Hora, at the Academy of Performing Arts in Prague under Jaroslav Tůma, and then at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy in Leipzig under Stefan Engels. Besides engaging in her own activities as a concert artist, since 2014 she has been the initiator, dramaturge, and director of the J. C. F. Fischer International Music Festival. Fischer, a baroque composer, was an older contemporary of Bach and a native of the town Schönfeld (today Krásno) in the Cheb region. The series of recordings “Historické varhany Karlovarského kraje” (Historic Organs of the Karlovy Vary Region) encompasses a gradually expanding list of CDs that capture the sound of the region’s rare organs, which have maintained their original sonic characteristics without major changes and have not previously been featured on any recordings. The first CD appeared in 2019. On that recording made in Karlovy Vary on the Romantic-era organ at the Church of Saints Peter and Paul, Michaela Káčerková performed the music of Max Reger, Bedřich Antonín Wiedermann, Bedřich Janáček, Bohuslav Martinů, and other composers. The project also encompasses concerts and, of course, the raising of money for maintenance and restoration of the rare organs in the region in the shadow of the Ore Mountains, from which the organist’s family originates. After Jáchymov, the next baroque organ to which she is turning her attention is in Bochov.



© Studio Svengali, July 2024
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