Friday 7 February 2014

Carsten Wiebusch draws some beautiful colours and textures from the Klais organ of Christuskirche, Karlsruhe in his own transcriptions of piano works by Debussy on a new release from Audite

The organist Carsten Wiebusch was born in 1969 in Göttingen and studied at the conservatories in Dusseldorf and Stuttgart and at the Folkwang School in Essen, his teachers being Hans-Dieter Möller and Jon Laukvik (organ), Ralf Otto (conducting) and Thomas Palm (piano).

He won several prizes at international organ competitions including the August Gottfried Ritter Competition Magdeburg in 1995 and Johann Sebastian Bach Prize Wiesbaden, 1st prize 1995 and now performed concerts in many European countries, Russia and the United States. From 1993 until1999 he was organist in Essen-Werden. Since 1999, Wiebusch has been cantor and organist of Christuskirche, Karlsruhe, in southwest Germany.

The Philipp Klais organ of Christuskirche attracted international interest when it was inaugurated in 2010. Its sound quality derives from the original Klais organ of 1966, built by Hans-Gerd Klais which was fully incorporated into the new organ, an instrument of almost 4,000 pipes. It is noted for its coolness and transparency of sound as well as its palette of tone colours.

As cantor, Carsten Wiebusch leads the traditional oratorio choir as well as the Christuskirche earning an outstanding reputation as one of the leading choirs in the region. Since 2000 he has taught organ at the Musikhochschule, Karlsruhe.

Carsten Wiebusch’s latest recording for Audite features his own transcriptions of piano works by Claude Debussy (1862-1918) played on the Klais organ of Christuskirche, Karlsruhe.


Audite 97.699

I remember, some years ago, an elderly lady walking out of a local concert because three pieces from Messiaen’s Vingt regards sur l’enfant Jésus were next on the programme. The pieces chosen were not that far removed from Debussy yet just the name of Messiaen was enough to put the lady off.

What this new disc from Audite does, in certain works, is to narrow our perception of the differences between these two great French composers. In the transcription of the Préludes pour Piano Book 2, Brouillards has wonderfully delicate, drifting mists with sudden upward runs. Wiebusch uses many aspects of the organ to full effect in this elusive piece. It is in Feuilles mortes, a piece that sits so well with the organ, that we can hear how influenced Messiaen was by Debussy. It changes in nature, bridging the gap between 19th c. and 20th c. styles with the little ‘dripping’ notes so reminiscent of Messiaen.

La peurta del Vino opens with a fruity organ motif before a pulsating Latin rhythm arrives. There are some lovely pedal notes thrown out in this amazing transcription for organ. Les Fées sont d’exquises danseuses is another example of the sounds that the organ can bring to these pieces, delicacy, rich timbres and haunting passages. Wiebusch draws some exquisite sounds from the Klais organ.

Bruyères has much of the original prelude with the added charm of limpid little figurations that sound so well on the organ. Again it is Wiebusch’s delicacy in his choice of registration that is so impressive. Général Lavine – eccentric opens with some lovely growls from the organ as this entertaining piece draws from the upper and lower registers to great effect with, later, an almost orchestral effect.

The transcription of La terrasse des audiences du clair de lune has more exquisitely delicate playing with many subtle changes of register that bring mesmerizingly lovely textures. Whilst retaining the shape and rhythm of the original, Ondine allows an almost abstract quality to appear with, at times, Messiaen again brought to mind.

The British national anthem thunders out to open Hommage è S. Pickwick Esq. P.P.M.P.C. There are many little subtle moments between the more dynamic passages with some lightly dancing moments deliciously played by Wiebusch.

The strangely atmospheric Canope shows what a master transcriber and organist can do with these pieces. The coda is simply exquisite.  Les tierces alternées is the only one of these Preludes without an extra-musical title. Again the transcription slides into a somewhat abstract nature around the rapid forward moving notes brilliantly played by this organist.

Quiet, rapid notes open Feux d’Artifice as quiet little outbursts sound out, so effective on the organ. The music rises magnificently as these two motifs increase in volume. Again Wiebusch manages to include so many little subtle delights whilst always avoiding bombast. Upward runs of the organ conclude with some superb sounds that are quite amazing.

Wiebusch follows Book 2 with La cathédrale engloutie from Préludes pour Piano Book 1 where there is a finely drawn opening full of mists, from which the cathedral slowly emerges and what a fine image the cathedral makes. Wiebusch does a tremendous job of pacing this work, building up the tension.

Finally there is Debussy’s Suite bergamasque with a glorious Prelude that seems so right in its organ guise with, again, Wiebusch adding so many subtle details. The Menuet builds to some lovely moments around the little rhythmic tune before a translucent, rippling Clair de Lune. Passepied brings out some lovely harmonies, ending this disc with some beautiful colours and textures.

One finds oneself listening to Debussy’s sounds in a different way as the mind is concentrated on these familiar pieces, showing their real variety.

This may not be what Debussy would have expected but I can’t think of an organ disc I have enjoyed so much for a long time. The recording is superb, one of the best organ recordings I have heard.

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