Just released (December 11, 2020): The Organ in The Age of Beethoven

Beethoven was a very fine organist, as witnessed by several sources, but after the period in Bonn he rarely played this instrument. However, a very interesting document from 1821, reporting a witness by Friedrich Starke, shows that Beethoven still loved to perform at the organ: they went to the Johannes Church in Döbling and, upon Starke’s request, Beethoven improvised for almost half an hour in two main musical forms. He played prelude, defined as con amore (with love), and a fugal movement which is believed to be linked to the Credo fugue “Et vitam venturi saeculi” of the Missa Solemnis.
The composer left very few original pieces for organ, but this is unsurprising: indeed, this reflects the use of the in the Court worships of the Roman Catholic rite. In fact, the organist at the Great Organ had to perform normally only upon the opening and at the closing of the services with improvised voluntaries with a requested fugal part; their duration could change substantially depending on the variety of situations that can occur in a Pontifical liturgy. This means that a composed piece could be either too short or too long for a particular situation. All Court Organists needed to follow exactly what happened during those parts of the liturgy. This was specific of the German and Austrian traditions, while noteworthy differences were observed with the other European countries (even if ruled by part of the same aristocratic families). In France and Italy, for instance, there was an old tradition of organ compositions to be performed during the liturgy. In Italy during the 18th Century, as well in almost the whole 19th, the main organ music consisted of organ sonatas whose movements corresponded to specific parts of the Mass: Offertorio (fast movement, sonata form); Elevazione (slow movement); Post Communio (fast movement, almost always in a Rondò form). Sometimes there was also a fourth movement (which would then represent the first movement of this virtual Sonata) consisting of an opening prelude, but this happened almost exclusively in the Tuscan tradition whose Grand Duke, incidentally, was the cousin of the Austrian Emperor.

In this first project published with the Da Vinci Classics label we can enter the organ music milieu that surrounded Beethoven. The program includes music by Luchesi, Lasceux, Neefe, Beethoven himself, Knecht, Albrechtsberger, Vanhal, Morandi and finally Schubert.

This recording has been made on May 25th, 2020, on the Chiminelli Organ op. 1 (2000) of the Chiesa di San Michele, Breno (Brescia).