commentary to opus 91a
"in memoriam Anton Bruckner" for Organ op. 91a (1989)
III. Finale beginning
performance: December 19, 1989, Leipzig, Gewandhaus
Dedication : Erwin Horn dedicated
Duration: 26 MinutesPublisher: Schott Music ED 21546 / ISMN: 979-0-001-19123-4
Bruckner's initials (A+B[-flat]) provide the opening gesture of the 1st
movement of this work. The beginning of the principle theme from Bruckner's 8th
Symphony is briefly quoted and passes in the course of the movement through multifarious
metamorphoses which work up to a climax. Eight bars piano form the bridge
to a coda, in which the elements of the movement reappear in changed guises.
Erwin Horn and Bertold Hummel at the organ of Gewandhaus Leipzig 1989
During those days of historical significance in 1989, as the East German revolution started and the opening of the east-west border in Germany and re-unification began to look like a serious option, an opportunity was proposed to me through contacts with Gewandhaus-Kapellmeister Kurt Masur - symbolic figure of the peaceful Revolution - of a concert on the substantial organ of the Gewandhaus in Leipzig with a first performance of a work by Bertold Hummel. The master chose, taking up a suggestion, the title "in memoriam Anton Bruckner" for his three-section, almost half-an-hour long opus 91 and re-worked in it - more or less perceptibly or enciphered - symphonic motifs from that composer. In the adagio middle section, one hears "misterioso" and as if in the far distance a three-bar chorale line consisting of a sequence of five ("distantial") major chords (E-flat : A : F-sharp : C : B), apparently in perfect Bruckner style. The question "Where did he get that from?" remained unanswered, even after the most concentrated wracking of brains. It sounded so much like Bruckner, yet was not.
(Hochschulmitteilungen (Music College Notes) 2001-2002, Hochschule für Musik Würzburg)
The great improviser on the organ, Anton Bruckner, could never tie himself down to write something in keeping with his scale and greatness. But many composers for the organ have come close to realising such ideas. This can of course happen in the most different ways. The most frequent approach is to borrow something from his symphonic material, - form, pathos, even harmonic ideas - and thus to conjure up an organ as Bruckner saw it. Bertold Hummel does this most impressively in a Fantasy in three movements full of improvisatory drive and polyphonic technique. In this, he takes the initials A and B(-flat) as a motif and rhythmic gestures primarily from the last two Bruckner symphonies as an expressive impulse and creates a grandiose, large-scale example of a genuinely German organ symphony. The requirements for this are not only a great organ, but also a virtuoso interpretation.
Blätter für Kirchenmusik, 6/1993
With his symphonic Fantasy in three movements, Hummel has produced a gripping work which loses at no point of its ca. 25 minutes its attraction; a piece well worth practising.
29th December, 1989
The surprise of the evening, the première of the opus with sub-title "In memoriam Anton Bruckner" by the Würzburg composer Bertold Hummel, awoke increasing enthusiasm with every bar, recalling with respect the mighty dimensions and the long symphonic breath of Bruckner, rejoicing in a proliferation of sound. Such daring but nevertheless charming mixtures, superimposed in numerous but transparent layers above one another, have seldom before been heard on the Gewandhaus organ. It was good that the composer himself could be there for this première success. The open border between the two Germanies leads here also to health-restoring normality!