Music and Vision homepage



The organ in various colours


Record Box

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 demonstration tool.

Great European Organs No. 54 (c) 1999 Priory Records Ltd. 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, Essex, UK



Download realplayer G2
To listen to the aural illustrations in this review,
you may need to download RealNetworks' realplayer G2.

Record Box is Music & Vision's regular Wednesday series of shorter CD reviews