There are many challenges in producing an outstanding recording of organ music. The artistic performance must be first-rate, the recorded sound state of the art, and the programming varied and interesting. Both of these new releases win on all three counts.
The Christopher Herrick CD is the seventh in a popular series begun in 1984. Herrick plays a different organ on each volume, each instrument situated in a different country. This time its Denmark and the organ of the Haderslev Cathedral, Church of Our Lady. Herrick always devotes part of his program to composers from or associated with the host country, in this case Buxtehude and Gade. The former is represented with his Prelude, Fugue, and Chaconne in C and the Prelude and Fugue in G Minor. A contemporary work by Peter Eben, Homage a Buxtehude, makes reference to the opening of the C Major Prelude for a nice tie-in. Herrick always includes a "famous" piece, and this time it is Carillon de Westminster by Louis Vierne. Among the other compositions, theres a boisterous arrangement of Brahms' Academic Festival Overture that is quite appealing. Sigfrid Karg-Elerts monumental Passacaglia and Fugue on B.A.C.H. closes the program in a grand and thunderous manner.
Mary Preston is resident organist with the Dallas Symphony and curator of the mighty and vibrant Fisk instrument she plays on the Reference Recordings disc. She opens with Karg-Elerts Choral Improvisation "Now Thank We All Our God," which commands immediate attention with its perfectly articulated upper-register sounds, supported by awesome pedal notes. That kind of welcome bombast can also be heard in the closing Toccata by Charles-Marie Widor. In between, you find Mendelssohns Organ Sonata No. 1 in F, and music by Vierne, Charles Ives, and Olivier Messiaen.
Organ playing simply doesnt get better than this. Both artists are the best in their field, each at the peak of his or her career. The engineering on each disc is also representative of the best available. The Reference Recordings disc is a little brighter and closer up; both have sound that will give your entire audio system, from subwoofer to tweeter, a thorough and amiable workout.
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