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A Real Work-out

Jane Parker-Smith
at the organ of
St Gudula, Rhede -
enjoyed by

'... commands your attention and never lets go.'

Jane Parker-Smith - Romantic and Virtuoso Works for Organ Vol 3. © 2008 Jane Parker-Smith

This CD is not only a treat for the ears, but also the eyes! Gorgeous color photos of the Organ of the Church of St Gudula, Rhede, Germany adorn the booklet as well as the jewelbox container. There are also a few black & white treasures, but whatever, they're marvelous! As to the sound, well! That's marvelous as well.

Jane Parker-Smith may be referred to as a specialist in the French repertoire (and nothing on this CD disputes that fact at all) but the variety of works she presents here are like a mini-tour of Central Europe. There is the Czech-born Bedrich Wiedermann, Germany's Arno Landmann, Edward Bairstow and C Hubert H Parry of the UK, Franz Liszt and Zsolt Gárdonyi of Hungary, plus the French Camille Saint-Saëns and Pierre Cochereau. A whirlwind tour, to be sure, but, oh, so satisfying! Generally, the works date from the mid-1800s to somewhat recently, although specific dates aren't provided. No matter.

Wiedermann's Impetuoso is just that, rushing ahead to find what lies around the next corner. The fanfare like beginning commands your attention and never lets go.

Listen -- Wiedermann: Impetuoso
(track 1, 0:00-0:50) © 2008 Jane Parker-Smith

Landmann, on the other hand, looked backwards to an earlier time for his Variations on a Theme of Handel Op 29. The beginning is very familiar to the ears, but it quickly goes elsewhere. Don't think your stereo was somehow turned off, it's just a very soft passage for a short while. Then, it livens up a good bit, and certainly sounds as though Ms Parker-Smith was having a grand time of it, in the process.

Listen -- Landmann: Variations on a Theme of Handel
(track 2, 3:21-4:29) © 2008 Jane Parker-Smith

One could say the same of the toccata that brings the work to a close.

Evening Song was Bairstow's first organ work to be published, even if it was originally for cello and piano. If you listen closely, you can easily decipher the solo cello line. It's a gorgeous piece, no question.

Listen -- Bairstow: Evening Song
(track 3, 3:48-4:39) © 2008 Jane Parker-Smith

The stately beginning of Parry's more ambitious Fantasia and Fugue in G, Op 188, will happily test your speakers! Ms Parker-Smith's fingers get a real work-out, as well, displaying the various timbres of the organ's pipes. Her playing is smooth as silk, while still allowing the King of Instruments to roar on occasion. The fugue begins rather delicately, but soon develops a more frisky attitude.

Listen -- Parry: Fantasia and Fugue in G
(track 4, 4:57-5:57) © 2008 Jane Parker-Smith

Liszt claimed his themed piece, A Symphonic Poem: Orpheus, was based on a relief of the lad playing his lyre on an Etruscan vase that Liszt saw in the Louvre. Originally for orchestra, it is one of thirteen tone poems by the composer who more or less invented that genre. This transcription, which really works well, is by Jean Guillou. From a very delicate and pastoral beginning, the scoring is very orchestral in nature. (Liszt must have been in a calm state of mind when he wrote it!)

Listen -- Liszt: Symphonic Poem: Orpheus
(track 5, 7:06-7:44) © 2008 Jane Parker-Smith

The Hungarian Zsolt Gárdonyi emigrated to Germany in 1968, and has done well in that country, but this piece is very French in nature. Grand Choeur started as an improvisation, but fortunately, this dazzling piece was later transcribed by the composer.

Although Saint-Saëns' instrument was the organ and he was much more than merely proficient at it, the music he composed for it -- other than the Organ Symphony -- is relatively unknown! His Deuxième Fantaisie Op 101 would certainly gain many new fans for the composer if they only knew of its existence. Certainly Ms Parker-Smith believes in it, as her performance deftly illustrates both the beautiful music and the range of musical colors available through the organ. Don't miss the marvelous tranquil ending of the coda.

Listen -- Cochereau: Scherzo symphonique
(track 8, 5:15-6:44) © 2008 Jane Parker-Smith

I'm quite certain that Pierre Cochereau would have listed Jeremy Filsell as co-author of his Scherzo symphonique if he heard this recording of his work. No, Filsell didn't write any of it, but he transcribed a 1974 recording of the improvisation by the composer. Once you listen to it, you'll marvel that not only could anyone write such complicated music, but also that someone else could actually transcribe it! This is an entirely engaging piece in the moto perpetuo style, a perfect delight to listen to, and not only shows off the skill of these two gentlemen, but also the very talented Jane Parker-Smith. Bravo as well to Avie Records for this third in the series of Romantic and Virtuoso Works for Organ. Cheers all around!

Copyright © 14 June 2009 Kelly Ferjutz,
Cleveland USA












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