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It will not have escaped readers of this magazine that a very significant rediscovery of the historic organ cultures in Poland is taking place. The latest in MDG’s Musica Baltica series is an ear-opening glimpse into the organ culture of late 17th- and 18th-century Gdańsk in the personae of two significant composer-organists active there, Volckmar and Gronau. Daniel Gronau is best known as a rare source of northern European registration. The music in his unusual chorale partitas is a bit square, but Andrzej Mikołaj Szadejko succeeds in enlivening it through his drive and articulation in a way which Marco Venturini (Brilliant Classics 94843, reviewed in C&O August 2014), for all his serious intent, couldn’t quite manage. The sonatas of Volckmar are extraordinary in their fusion of northern European stylus fantasticus forms and the Italian concerto style of Vivaldi. The rhetorical spirit of the Buxtehudian (or perhaps, more relevantly, Vincent Lübeckian) Praeludium links their various sections but the effect is quite different; this music is entirely unique and highly virtuosic, not least in the pedal writing. Volckmar was known as a leading virtuoso and as a difficult individual, besotted with his own self- importance. Szadejko’s brilliant playing captures the craziness of the man, though perhaps in slightly too chaotic a manner; the tempi are seriously fast. The organ in the Holy Trinity Church in Gdańsk with its utterly fabulous renaissance case, was once presided over by Volckmar himself; the extent to which the 2018 instrument is reconstructed, or entirely new, is unclear from the booklet. In the cavernous acoustics it sounds very splendid, if not in any way ‘old’. Highly recommended.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica

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