Fryderyk Chopin, Michał Szostak, Dietrich Buxtehude, Nicolaus Bruhns, Louis-James-Alfred Lefébure-Wély, Wojciech Kilar
Organ Music on the restored instrument of Emanuel Štěpán Petr (1912, Op. 200) at the Church of St. Ignatius of Loyola in Prague, Czech Republic
The CD is a recording of an organ recital performed on August 7, 2020 by dr. Michał Szostak on a romantic instrument by Emanuel Štěpán Petr (1853-1930) in the Church of St. Ignatius de Loyola in Prague, Czech Republic. Petr – known as the Czech Cavaillé-Coll – was one of the most important organ builders who developed one of the largest organ companies in the region; during the nearly 50 years of its existence, the company has produced a total of 351 instruments in the Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Romania and Russia.
The program of the recital was planned taking into account the universal nature of this organ and with reference to the long musical history of this place: two pre-Bach works (a lyrical choral prelude with figured cantus firmus Komm, heiliger Geist, Herr Gott by Dietrich Buxtehude and the wonderful, written with great panache, so-called "great" Prelude and Fugue in E minor by Nicolaus Bruhns) and the romantic repertoire of the 19th century (three miniatures by Frédéric Chopin and two dances – Boléro by Lefébure-Wély and Wojciech Kilar's Polonaise) shared time with the improvised 6-movement Organ Symphony in 19th century French style. The unique qualities of the Petr organ, the excellent work of the Kánský-Brachtl ensemble on the reconstruction of this instrument inspired me to release a CD recording of this concert. The whole was completed with two improvisations recorded during the rehearsal for the concert: the lively Toccata opening the album and the romantic Idylle romantique separating the Baroque and the Romantic repertoire. The sound material on this CD has not been modified in any way, hence we can hear e.g. the clock beating, among others during the Final of the improvised Symphony, or the steps of people in the church during the rehearsal to the concert. However, I think that also these elements emphasize the uniqueness of this CD, adding an extra dimension in terms of the perception of the musical material.
The visible Baroque organ case is most likely from 1680, while the romantic instrument – with Cone Valve windchests and a mechanical traction supported by Barker levers, located in the main case, is the work of Emanuel Štěpán Petr, built in 1911-1912 with the opus number 200. It should be mentioned that the small visible positive organ is now a completely separate and independent instrument and has its own keyboard and pedalboard built into the back of the case. Petr's organ stood in the loft until 1987, when it was dismantled due to the reconstruction of the loft structure because of the disturbance of its statics. Since the 1990s, attempts have been made to rebuild the instrument, because the operation of the original air system was unreliable, and therefore the instrument was difficult to operate, and extremely difficult to adjust. The antique organ case was very small for such a large instrument, and the total lack of free space made most current repairs impossible. Due to these factors, the usability of the instrument was significantly reduced, so that, with the passage of time, the voices of the pedal section became completely silent. For several years, there was a professional discussion about the form in which to rebuild the Emanuel Štěpán Petr’s organ (after disassembly) so that the instrument was consistent in style and guaranteed effective functionality. In 2013, the work was entrusted to the Kánský-Brachtl organ-building team, which rebuilt the organ case and reconstructed the entire organ mechanism. The conceptual design, construction of the mechanisms and the execution of the Barker lever were carried out by Jaromír Kánský, while the intonation was carried out by Josef Brachtl; Peter Stirber was responsible for the renovation of the surfaces. The project of enlarging the organ case with the original Petr’s sound divisions was completed in 2013. The instrument has been completely rebuilt with the use of mechanical traction supported by Barker levers. The solutions of the Petr’s project were applied here, removing solutions that, with time, have proved to be negative. After these restorative works, the instrument is considered to be one of the best romantic organs in Prague.
The CD – enclosed in a digipack – is accompanied by an illustrated booklet containing the organ's specification, history of the church and the organ, organ builder's biography, performer biography – all in English, Czech and Polish.