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The American-educated German concert organist Felix Hell here performs a collection of German romantic works on the characteristic Walcker organ at Lüdenscheid. Pride of place goes to Rheinberger’s Twelve Character Pieces, op.156. Perhaps Rheinberger’s strength as a composer lay more in short forms than in extended essays; these attractive and varied miniatures seem to suggest so. Mendelssohn’s oft-played Sixth Sonata receives a nuanced performance even if the crescendo in the fugue seems at odds with the rest of Hell’s straightforwardly classical approach. Elsewhere, Liszt’s ‘BACH’ Prelude feels occasionally rushed (and the wind wobbles alarmingly when the lefthand plays in octaves), while the ‘Langsam’ in Brahms’s Fugue in A flat minor is somewhat less slow than you might be used to – it feels a little restless, even if the instinct for line and direction is surely a good one. The organ retained its electro-pneumatic action from an ill-fated 1957 rebuild when restored in 2008. It sounds wholly convincing in this repertoire, although noisily opening pallets distract slightly in softer passages.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica


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