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Christian Collum (Organ)

Organ Works from Christian Collum


Famous Works For Organ

1. Bruhns - Prelude in E minor
2. Buxtehude - Choral Setting BuxWV 219
3. Buxtehude - Toccata in F major BuxWV 156
4. Sweelinck - Ballo del Gran Duca
5. Frescobaldi - Toccata in F major
6. Bach - Prelude in G major, BWV 541
7. Bach - Andante from Trio Sonata BWV 528
8. Bach - Fugue in G major, BWV 541

Christian Collum (Organ) [Historical Wagner Organ of the Marienkriche at Angermunde]

Berlin Classics


CD / TT: 53:34

Donald Satz wrote (December 17, 2001):
Summary Rating: A

Back in the 1970's, Christian Collum was a talented but 'suspect' artist in East Germany. He didn't volunteer for the correct activities, and he refused to colloborate with the Communist authorities to inform on collegues in return for an international career. Also, his interest of historical performance practice was poorly received by the cultural gurus. His star was so low that the tapes for the recording at hand were locked up in the archives of the State recording company VEB Deutsche Schallplatten until the 'Wall' came down.

Collum was quite surprised and delighted when he learned the tapes had not been destroyed decades earlier, and he gave his enthusiastic approval to their public release. Collum does feel that he would now perform the programmed works in a more relaxed manner, but that he was very adventurous at the time of recording and is proud of the readings.

The Wagner Organ and Collum make an excellent team. The organ is very sweet sounding, but Collum does not allow any syrup to flow. His performances are sharp and rugged. Whatever validity, if any, there is to the phrase 'a man's man' applies totally to the Collum readings. He takes sweetness and changes it into the immediacy of power and sweep. But this is not a case of turning 'wine into vinegar'; Collum does not skimp on nor lose sight of poignancy, tenderness, and lyricism.

I should relate that Collum's disc is one of the 'loudest' recordings I've ever heard; it likely goes to the top of the charts. It's quite evident right from the beginning of the first track - the Bruhns Praeludium in e (the larger). Although the entire work is one of the most powerful in the baroque organ repertoire, the first minute really unleashes nature's fury. Add in the idiomatic power of Collum, and the result is tremendous.

William Porter, on a Loft Recordings disc which I reviewed a few months ago, provides a wonderful reading of the Bruhns which I didn't think could be bettered. I now have to scratch that assumption, because Collum is simply collosal. Unlike Porter, Collum is all edges; the combination of great power and edge is a major treat. At the same time, Collum finds just as much beauty in the work as Porter.

The Bruhns Praeludium may not offer many opportunites for tenderness and restraint, but Sweelinck's Ballo del Gran Duca certainly does. The piece is based on a dance number by de Cavalieri and is a set of four variations on de Cavalieri's original theme which has 'royal dance' written all over it. Collum makes effective adjustments from his power base and is actually less demonstrative in the last variation than James David Christie on his Sweelinck/Naxos disc which is the Naxos best selling recording since the company's inception. I do prefer Christie slightly because he provides greater contrast among the variations than Collum. However, Collum's registrations are delightful, and he fully captures the ceremony and dance properties of the work.

The Bach pieces have been recorded by hundreds of organists. Does Collum have anything distinctive to offer? Most certainly. As I was listening to the readings, it struck me that I've never heard this music played in such a 'public' and grand manner; the joy of music leaps out of the speakers. Collum's BWV 541 is two minutes slower than the thrilling performance from Lionel Rogg, but it hardly seems to matter. Collum's Andante from the Trio Sonata possesses the most sparkling registrations and is a wonderful alternative to Werner Jacob on EMI who gives us a highly intimate interpretation. Collum earns a position on the top rung for each of his three Bach performances.

Collum's performance style would seem perfectly suited to a Buxtehude toccata, and so it is with the Toccata in F major. Collum punches out greater power than Rene Saorgin on his Harmonia Mundi version. Collum's Buxtehude chorale treatment also rivals the Saorgin. An excelent blend of strength, tension, and poetry informs Collum's performance of Frescobaldi's Toccata in F major. It's all played in a strong and stunning manner, further solidifying Collum's disc as a keeper.

Don's Conclusions: The Christian Collum mixed baroque organ disc offers performances of great impact and vision. Considering the tremendous muscle of Collum, I do question the inclusion of the Sweelinck work and the Buxtuhude chorale. This is one of those times when I could have eaten up a whole disc of intense strength. However, Collum never disappoints and his Bruhns and Bach readings are fantastic. This is an essential disc for baroque organ enthusiasts and would likely be well received by others who cherish the power of music. Total music time is short, but exceptional music-making transcends such matters. Just remember to stay close to the volume controls.

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