The Free-Reed Review
Critiques of Compact Discs, Books and Music Scores

CD Review:
Dick Sanderman: Boléro de Concert: een bloemlezing uit de harmonium literatuur
Dick Sanderman: seraphine, harmonium and reed organ


Mustel harmonium:

Alphonse Mailly (1833 - 1918)
1. Le Bandinage
2. La Pastorale
Nicolas-Jacques Lemmens (1823 - 1881)
3. Romance sans parôles
4. Mélodie facile
5. Hélène Polka
Alexandre Guilmant (1837 - 1911)
6. Marche en Fa majeur

Debain Harmonium:

Louis J. A. Lefébure-Wely (1817 - 1869)
Five movements from Douze Pensées Musicales, op. 28)
7. - Andantino
8. - Andante
9. - Allegretto
10. - Andante
11. - Allegretto
12. Boléro de Concert, op. 166
Georges Bizet
13. Caprice from Esquisses Musicales

"Improved" Seraphine:

Samuel Wesley (1766 - 1837)
Two pieces from Mr. Green's Seraphine Tutor
14. - Andante
15. - Andantino

Estey "Guilmant" Reed Organ:

Cor Kee (1900 - 1997)
16. 't Scheepke onder Jezus' hoede
Cor Kint (1890 - 1944)
17. Solitude, op. 19, no. 2

Titz Harmonium:

Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877 - 1933)
Cantata di Chiesa (alla J.S. Bach) from 33 Portraits, op. 101
18. - Sinfonia
19. - Aria
20. - Corale
21. Frauengunst (alla Johann Strauß)

Total time: 65:51
Released in 1997
Review Date: May 2001

Label: VDGram CD 970829
Available from: Phil and Pam Fluke

Artist's e-mail:

Review by Gregory A. Vozar

Like others who have leafed through the organ repertory for new and interesting pieces, Dick Sanderman eventually became acquainted with works for harmonium. While they piqued his curiosity, he did not find them entirely satisfactory when played upon the organ. In fact, he admits that although an organist by training and profession, he always felt something lacking in his chosen instrument. Then, in 1983, while arranging an exhibit of free-reed keyboard instruments, he made an important artistic and esthetic discovery: he played a harmonium for the first time. "At that moment," he recalls, "I found the missing something!" The more expressive harmonium and its oeuvre fit his musical sensibilities perfectly.

He was also to find that this once popular instrument had fallen victim to changing musical tastes many decades earlier. Nearly a century after its heyday, it was not easy to track down a harmonium suitable for concertizing. It took Sanderman nearly a decade to obtain an instrument for his own use, but when he finally acquired a two-manual Trayser, built circa 1873, he was on the right track. Dick then found himself taking part in a quiet renaissance of free-reed instruments. He eventually managed to acquire two more harmoniums, a small but boisterous Kotykiewicz, which he says can hold its own "even against two Steinway grands in Rossini's Petite Messe Solennelle," and his pride and joy, a Mustel kunstharmonium.

In 1996, Sanderman played the inaugural recital at a weeklong festival sponsored by the Harmonium Vereniging Nederland (Netherlands Harmonium Society). Both the concert format and the wonderful acoustics of the performance venue, the Medieval Church in Doezum, gave birth to plans for this recording, Boléro de concert: een bloemlezing uit de harmoniumliteratuur.

The subtitle of this disc, "an anthology of harmonium literature," is scholarly camouflage for a very agreeable program, which ranges from the delightful simplicity of popular salon pieces to sophisticated works for church and concert hall, each chosen to demonstrate a particular instrument. This sampling of reed organs as well as music is perhaps the most attractive aspect of the recording. Drawing upon the resources of collectors Willem Olthof and Piet Dijkstra, the artist chose five instruments that amply demonstrate the vibrant sonorities and expressive capabilities of free-reeds.

The program opens with two genre pieces by Alphonse Mailly wherein the composer juxtaposes a cantabile line against an accompaniment of shifting colors. They offer a perfect showcase for the Mustel harmonium on which they are played. Indeed, Mustel instruments were famous for their quick response and amenability to subtle manipulation. The Belgian organist and composer Nicolas-Jacques Lemmens thought them the very finest of their type and acted as an ambassador for the Mustel atelier. Three of his works follow those of Mailly, my favorite being the lilting and cheerful Hélène Polka. Sanderman skillfully tempers this once risqué dance with just a hint of drawing room decorum. Somewhat statelier music flowed from the pen of Alexandre Guilmant, a Lemmens pupil. He composed for the fiery glory of the symphonic organs of Aristide Cavaillé-Coll; however, like most French organ composers, he devoted time and energy to the harmonium as well. His noble Marche en Fa majeur caps the Mustel portion of the album.

In 1842 François-Alexandre Debain patented both the name "harmonium" and the primary features of the instrument. Other Parisian builders immediately recognized the importance of his innovations and copied both his trademark and improvements. Debain spent the rest of his professional life unsuccessfully trying to assert his right of ownership. Possessing a velvety, dark timbre very much to Romantic tastes, his instruments are historically significant, and it is fitting that Dick Sanderman chose a Debain harmonium to play the works of Louis Joseph Alfred Lefébure-Wely, including the well-known title piece: Boléro de concert. The throaty Debain is also the best vehicle for the Caprice from George Bizet's Esquisses Musicales.

A rare Seraphine is the oldest instrument on this disc and the item that most aroused my curiosity. Built in 1837 by Messrs Kirkman & White of London, this pressure-winded predecessor of the harmonium possesses a single set of reeds within its mahogany case. One of its two pedals supplies air while the second operates a muting device. Upon this instrument Sanderman plays two selections from Mr. Green's Seraphine Tutor, some of the last compositions from the pen of the venerable Samuel Wesley. As one might expect from a contemporary of Mozart and Beethoven, refined elegance permeates Wesley's music. However, Sanderman admits the slow-speaking reeds of the seraphine and its unwieldy means of raising wind were impositions upon a performer accustomed to the more flexible harmonium. He has some difficulty in managing this instrument and the results sound somewhat rushed and lacking in grace.

The music of two contemporary Dutch composers then draws our attention to the twentieth century. 't Scheepke onder Jezus' hoede is a set of variations on a hymn tune (The ship under Jesus' protection) by the long-lived Cor Kee, published under his pseudonym of Orgelius. This is followed by Cor Kint's wistful and nostalgic Solitude. Here Dick Sanderman has chosen to play an American reed organ, an Estey Guilmant model with "philharmonic" reeds. It is the only suction-winded organ on the recording and capable of tone colors not available on the harmonium. A grand instrument with a big sound, Sanderman confesses it proved to be less responsive than its pressure-winded counterparts.

The final selections on the CD are by Sigfrid Karg-Elert, probably the most prolific harmonium composer the world has known. Sanderman offers us a set of three well played movements from the composer's 33 Portraits, op. 101. The Sinfonia, Aria and Corale comprise a Cantata di chiesa intended to be in the style of J. S. Bach but nevertheless sounding very Karg-Elert to my ears. The composer does better with his Straussian waltz Frauengunst. He aptly imitates the famous Waltzkönig and manages some sly humorous jabs at the same time. Sanderman here plays a large art harmonium by Johannes Titz of Silesia, a maker with whom Karg-Elert had ties.

I would recommend this compact disc to anyone interested in the harmonium, organ or Romantic keyboard music; it is likely to make new friends for this long-ignored offspring of the Industrial Revolution. To my knowledge, Boléro de concert is unique among harmonium recordings in offering listeners well-played music played on a range of historical instruments. After just a few tracks, I had no doubt that Dick Sanderman has found his niche at the harmonium keyboard; he possesses the talent and musicianship to breathe life into what might have been a dry, antiquarian program. It is hard to ask for more, but there is also a fine booklet (alas, only in Dutch) with pictures and histories of both the composers and instruments.

The project was produced under the auspices of the Harmonium Vereniging Nederland. More information about the organization may be found at their website: http://sponsor/ One may write to their secretary, Mr. Piet Bron, at:

In closing, I would like to offer my sincere thanks to Dick Sanderman for sharing with me his impressions of the instruments he has played and for translating portions of the booklet. His kind and patient cooperation with my many questions certainly deserves acknowledgement.

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