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ClassicsOnline Home » HERBECK, J.R. von: Symphony No. 4 / Symphonic Variations (Hamburg Symphony, Haselbock)
Herbeck, not remarkable
I’m a sucker for Romantic works for organ and orchestra. My first exposure to this kind of music was Camille Saint-Saëns’ “Organ” Symphony and I relentlessly blasted my stereo speakers with the RCA recording featuring Charles Munch, the Boston Symphony Orchestra and organist Berj Zamkochian – it’s still the best recording of the work and still a sonic blockbuster. I still love organ concertos, symphonies, etc. Joseph Jongen’s Symphonie Concertante is a big favorite and I yearn for the day somebody realizes we need a really good recording of Joseph Rheinberger’s Organ Concertos.
My hopes of a Rheinberger-Max Reger-Anton Bruckner-styled work made me keen to try this recording of the “Organ Symphony” by Johann von Herbeck (1831-1877). “Herbeck?” you might ask. Herbeck was an Austrian conductor and composer who championed a number of composers who had fallen into neglect, notably Franz Schubert. Herbeck was friends with Franz Liszt and also an advocate for Bruckner. A prolific choral composer, Herbeck also wrote incidental music and seven symphonies.
The “Organ Symphony” is in the traditional four movements and has a gentle Brahms-in-a-pastoral-mood-flavor—think of a B level Brahms Second Symphony and you will know what I’m talking about. The opening movement is elegiac in spirit and reaches for some grandeur with the entrance of the organ. I was really taken by the second movement Andante with its pastoral qualities and chorale-like main theme. Predictably the third movement is a light and delicate Scherzo. The last movement is a big fugue with the organ stepping to the front. It’s a decent work but hardly a thing that would get your pulse jumping.
The other work on the recording is Herbeck’s Symphonic Variations. Again it hints of Brahms, this time the genial Brahms of the Haydn Variations. Herbeck’s Variations are pleasant enough; the Fifth Variation is especially charming with a Dvorák-like warmth. In both works the Hamburger Symphony under the direction of Mmore....
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HERBECK, J.R. von: Symphony No. 4 / Symphonic Vari...