Friday 2 May 2014

Trombonist, Hansjörg Fink and organist Elmar Lehnen are tremendously accomplished in an exceptional Requiem that subjects traditional plainchants to a variety of both jazz and traditional variations on this new release from Audite

A new release from Audite features the unusual combination of trombone and organ in a work entitled Requiem by trombonist, Hansjörg Fink and organist, Elmar Lehnen.

These two musicians took as their starting point traditional plainchants that would normally have been used in settings of the Requiem, subjecting them to both jazz influenced and traditional variations, some written out and others improvised.

Hansjörg Fink (trombone)  was born in 1969 in Aalen, Germany and began playing the piano and trumpet at an early age. He had his first trombone lessons as a member of the Sinfonisches Jugendblasorchester Aalen and he was soon playing in the Städtisches Sinfonieorchester Aalen, in several regional and national chamber music ensembles and big bands such as the Landesjugendjazzorchester Baden Württemberg.

His studies with Paul Schreckenberger (classical trombone), Bobby Burgess (lead and jazz trombone) and Klaus Wagenleiter (harmony, arranging and composition) provided a thorough musical foundation that encompassed a wide range of musical styles. Hansjörg went on to study trombone (jazz and popular music) with Bart and Erik van Lier at the Amsterdam School of the Arts in Hilversum, the Netherlands and classical trombone with Ben van Dijk. He is busy as a recording and performing artist and can be heard frequently in concerts, recordings as well as on radio and television programmes. As lead trombonist, section player and soloist, he has mastered a wide range of musical styles and is equally at home in big bands, musical and theatre productions, pop bands, major jazz festivals as well as in symphony orchestras, chamber music ensembles or as a featured soloist.

Hansjörg Fink has performed on all continents and in the most fascinating cities in the world, far beyond the European borders – from Paris, Monaco, Moscow to New York, Cape Town, Tokyo, Bombay or Dubai. Since 1996, Hansjörg Fink is solo trombonist of the World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra and is frequently on tour.

Elmar Lehnen (organ) was born in 1965 in Hinsbeck on the Lower Rhine and received his first organ lessons with Wolfgang Seifen.  He completed his church music studies at the School of Church Music St. Gregory House in Aachen, with Berthold Botzet, Norbert Richtsteig and Viktor Scholz, where he later taught organ and choral conducting. He continued his studies at the Schola Cantorum in Paris with Professor Jean-Paul Imbert. After ten years as cantor of the parish of St. Anna in Mönchengladbach he was, in October 2000, appointed organist of the Basilica Pontifical St. Marien Kevelaer. From 2008 to 2012 he was also choral director at St. Marien. Lehnen has a busy international concert schedule as well as making recordings and radio and television appearances.

Introitus: Requiem Aeternam of the Requiem for Trombone and Organ opens with deep pedal notes on the organ and a two note motif from the trombone which soon develops into a recognisable melody. There are deep growls from the organ and gritty trombone textures, before the theme is developed, rising up more dynamically, with the trombone becoming more jazz inflected. There are reflective passages with the plainchant of the Requiem appearing, intermingled with trombone variations, often jazzy, and sometimes flowing with the organ theme. Soon there is a particularly fine hushed passage for organ before the trombone rejoins in a faster moving syncopated variation with some fine, punctuated passages from the organ. All the time, the plainchant of the Requiem is there, right up to the final flourish from trombone and organ.

The trombone intones the theme of the Kyrie, another plainchant, followed by the organ. There are some glorious passages from both players in this rather exquisite section that has a mournful edge to it, before the trombone leads naturally into jazz variations over the organ which gently reflects the trombone variation.

In the Sequenz: Dies Irae the trombone opens with raspy textures to which the organ replies. These are fully jazz themes right from the opening. Soon the Dies Irae appears through the jazz variations but the strange, jazz variations continue from both trombone and organ. The way these performers vary the plainchant very much adds to the feeling of drama and, to an extent, suspense of the Day of Wrath, with the plainchant always just there, almost hidden. Soon the tempo takes on an insistent nature, particularly as the trombone works around the organ. There is an outburst for both trombone and organ before the trombone plays a solo improvisation to which the organ eventually joins, to add a counterpoint. When the music builds again, dynamically, there are some massive organ passages in this stunning section. The organ solo continues with some intricate, quieter passages that show further hints of the Dies Irae theme as it is varied. When the trombone rejoins in a rhythmic section it leads to a more flowing, melancholic passage, again with jazz inflections from the trombone and rather a sultry feel. After a variety of variations on the plainchant the music then increases in tempo before slowing to end.

The Offertorium brings an upbeat opening for trombone and organ before slowing for another sultry variation. Hansjörg Fink is amazingly adept as sliding from the straightforward presentation of a theme to a jazz based variation. This music soon speeds again, full of momentum and life, with Elmar Lehnen showing how able he is to adapt his playing to take in jazz elements. The music again slows, with those sultry trombone sounds, but speeds for the flamboyant end.

In the Sanctus/Benedictus there is a variation of the Sanctus plainchant repeated in turn by organ and trombone in this suitably joyous section. The music slows for the Benedictus, a hushed organ solo to which the trombone soon adds a lovely sonorous touch. These two players balance the music so well.

The Agnus Dei opens with a delicate descending motif for organ before it is soon joined by the trombone playing with jazzy inflections around the organ theme. A syncopated variation for both players arrives that rises to a dynamic conclusion.

Organ and trombone lead forward in Lux Aeterna, a broad languid theme which Fink subjects to a variety of variations over Lehnen’s broad accompaniment. Soon there is another of Lehnen’s lovely hushed organ passages, brilliantly and sensitively done. The trombone joins again to lead to a calm coda.

Organ flourishes open Libera me to which the trombone adds its own variation. The organ becomes more prominent before leading into a quieter passage with some lovely timbres and little motifs as the plainchant is revealed. There is a more rhythmic section for organ as it speeds through a variety of variations before, this time, revealing the Dies Irae plainchant in this extended organ part. Eventually the trombone joins as the music is at its most dramatic, before leading to a resplendent, triumphant climax that precedes the gentler close.

In Paradisum is quiet and reflective before a most satisfying end.

Both these artists are tremendously accomplished in this exceptional work that in no way diminishes the depth of the Requiem but rather adds to the drama and passion.

You would have to have pretty entrenched views not to find Requiem immensely attractive and, indeed, impressive. Both soloists are terrific in the way that they combine jazz elements with the more traditional. They receive an excellent recording and there are informative booklet notes complete with organ specification.

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