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Kolbein Haga (Organ)

Bach Organ Works from Kolbein Haga


Selected Organ Works

Prelude & Fugue in C minor, BWV 546
Chorale Partita, BWV 768
Trio Sonata No. 4 in E minor, BWV 528
"O Lamm Gottes unschuldig", BWV 656
Passacaglia in C minor, BWV 582

Kolbein Haga, Organ
[Sibermann Organ, Petri-Kirche, Freiberg (1735)]

Pro Musica


TT: 63:41

Donald Satz wrote (January 11, 2002):

Summary: Distinctive and hammer-like performances with a few drawbacks

The performances of Kolbein Haga may be best described as twisting and severe. This likely doesn't sound very enticing, and I can't deny that my first listening of the disc was not a pleasant one. But with subsequent hearings, my affection keeps increasing. Haga's articulation of contrapuntal lines is quite distinctive and very different from the legato approaches of performers such as Simon Preston and Christopher Herrick. Haga's performances are the type that are most disliked by those favoring Bach on the modern organ.

There are a few drawbacks which preclude a strong recommendation. In the Prelude of BWV 546, Haga could use more lift and majesty. His Andante from the Trio Sonata is rushed and uneven, and there's an overbearing bass projection toward the conclusion of the spiritually uplifitng and gorgeous BWV 656.

At the other end, Haga's Passacaglia is a tremendously powerful reading which has to be heard, and his BWV 768 is among the best with its interesting registrations and contrasts.

Here are the specifics:

Prelude & Fugue in C minor, BWV 546 - The twisting rhythm, like a tightening coil, is most evident in Haga's Fugue. It works excellently and does no damage to the music's lyricism; it's just a severe brand of lyricism. The contrast with Herrick's Fugue is very wide as Herrick conveys a strong legato. I do have a slight issue with Haga's lift and fullness in the Prelude; they are rather low in comparison to Herrick who reaches for a vision. Still, the Haga C minor is a fine and sharply etched accomplishment.

Chorale Partita, BWV 768 - The performances only improve in the Partita which has an opening chorale and eleven variations. Haga's registrations are very interesting, particularly in the more demonstrative variations such as nos. 5, 6, and 11. Many listeners would consider these registrations to be 'raucous', but I find them creative and effective. Essentially, Haga twists his way through the Partita at every viable
moment. Simon Preston's version on Philips is exceptional but no better than the Haga, just very different as Preston uses a legato approach.

Trio Sonata in E minor, BWV 528 - Haga's reading is a fine one except for the Andante which I consider the heart of the work. He sounds rushed and uneven, qualities which are highly detrimental to this gorgeous and mysterious music. Haga's version of BWV 528 is not one which I will be visiting often, and I'd wager that Bach's Trio Sonatas are not conducive to Haga's strengths.

"O Lamm Gottes unschuldig", BWV 656 - I was very curious as to the approach Haga would use for this work. Would he twist the music in his severe fashion, and what would that do to such gorgeous music which generally is considered best presented in a legato manner? To my great surprise, Haga is more subdued and intimate than any other version I've heard. He uses light textures, ever-present angularity, and conjures up a different soundworld for this work from the norm. All goes in sublime fashion until a booming bass enters the picture for the last two minutes of music; it is overbearing and pulls Haga down from the top of the mountain to only a worthy performance.

Passacaglia in C minor, BWV 582 - Some refer to the organ as the "King of Instruments". Haga's Passacaglia sends that message loud and clear. But Haga's king is not a benevolent and thoughtful ruler, but a stern one who gets what he wants by blasting his way through your body and spirit. Unlike E. Power Biggs who builds up toward a climax in the Passacaglia, Haga begins climaxing right from the start. He keeps twisting and tightening the coil until you give up and become absorbed. This is definitely a version only for the stout at heart, but one which can be the most rewarding of all.

Don's Conclusions: For those wary of severe performances on historical organs, the disc from Kolbein Haga should be avoided. For others, these twisting and austere interpretations might provide many hours of reward(although exhausting). One thing is certain; these aren't your run-of-mill performances. Haga has a point of view, and he makes sure you get his message whether you like or not. Personally, I'm one who does like it.

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Last update: ýJanuary 20, 2003 ý00:44:51