There is a crucial balance in organ recordings between music played for
music's sake and 'music' - sometimes of the fodder variety - to show off a
particular organ. This is yet another hurdle for the general music lover who
not unreasonably expects music to be in place for its merit and not as a
Those sentiments prelude this review only because the last three tracks
contain music by the 19th century Belgian composer Lemmens that resembles
watery gruel for a listener hoping for creamy porridge. Having dispensed with
that, I gladly assure readers that the other tracks have their moments, both for
music and performance.
There's no Bach here, but Handel with the Overture for the opera Il Pastor
Fido played in his keyboard transcription, and registered using blocks of
colour as might be found in his manner of scoring.
A strong attraction with this recording is the resplendent Flentrop organ
built for Dunblane Cathedral in 1989. It reveals some of its special qualities
in works such as a Cornet Voluntary by John Blow
[listen - track 10, 00:23-01:10], a
set of chorale variations by Sweelinck, and a Partita on Veni Creator
Spiritus by the Swedish composer Knut Nystedt
[listen - track 9, 00:00-00:54]. It
is in this area of specialisation - modern organs built to traditional
principles, and music specifically needing textural clarity - that gives the
general music lover an uncompromising experience, or worse, a rough ride.
Christopher Nickol has the facility to present this programme with care for
style and a technique to release the music eloquently
[listen - track 8, 02:33-03:03]. He gives this organ
plenty of scope for its tonal variety, and is one of those players also careful
enough to provide details of registration in the booklet.
It is true for music generally that for us all there are uplifting and
downpushing experiences controlled by a mishmash of pros and cons peculiar to
each person. Yet in this fundamental lies the extraordinary miracle of
individuals, each subtly different from the next. From my life of puzzling
encounters with an instrument so diverse and aloof as the organ, there remains
the vividness of a few played with such musical authority that the experiences
have seared into my brain as pinnacles of musical achievement comparable with a
select few culled from opera, orchestral, lieder, and chamber music.
I do not rate this CD in that category, but would commend its music, organ
and most of the playing for those who grab quickly for organ records, or those
cautiously curious about fine modern organs and good players.
Copyright © 22 March 2000 Basil Ramsey, Eastwood,
To listen to the aural illustrations in this review,
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Record Box is Music & Vision's regular Wednesday series of
shorter CD reviews