CARSON COOMAN - The Cloak With The Stars

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CARSON COOMAN - The Cloak With The Stars - Music for Organ Vol. 6 - Erik Simmons (Organ) - 809730515927 - Released: November 2017 - Divine Art DDA25159

1} Three St. Francis Legends – I. St. Francis Divests Himself of All Worldly Wealth
2} Three St. Francis Legends – II. St. Francis and the Sermon to the Birds
3} Three St. Francis Legends – III. St. Francis and the Wolf of Gubbio
4} Piccola fantasia francescana
5} The Cloak with the Stars
6} Entrata festiva
7} Diptych for New Life – I. Aubade
8} Diptych for New Life – II. Toccata
9} Gebet
10} Sketch No. 3
11} Ciaccona angelica
12} Variations on a Theme of Andreas Willscher
13} San Andreas Suite – I. Carillon in festo S. Andreae apostoli
14} San Andreas Suite – II. Versets on a Melody from Périgord
15} San Andreas Suite – III. Pastorale mit einem Orgelpunkt
16} San Andreas Suite – IV. Toccata périgourdine

The rate at which composer/organist Carson Cooman writes and publishes new music for the organ will never cease to amaze me. His previous recording (reviewed here) was released in July of this year (2017), and now only four months later we see the release of Volume 6 in the Divine Art series of recordings featuring Erik Simmons at the organ. And even more impressive is that one would think that at this rate all of his compositions would sound the same as if coming off an assembly line, but quite the opposite, they are all distinctively different and varied in style, expression and technique. All the pieces on this CD are new compositions from this year, but organist Erik Simmons plays them as confidently as if he'd known them for years.

For example, the first of the St. Francis Legends is stoic and slow, and is a great model of how harmonic progression should work, whereas the Toccata from the Diptych for New Life is highly spirited, exuberant, and a fun listening experience. The Ciaccona angelica is a beautiful adagio with an inspired melody drifting over an almost motionless bed of serenity and calm, while the Entrata festiva, as its title implies, would certainly add circumstance to anyone's procession up the centre aisle. The tolling of the heavy bells in Carillon in festo S. Andreae apostoli played on the pedalboard of the organ, may seem repetitive, but using a touch of compositional magic, the harmonically shifting chords on the keyboards make them seem different. And befitting a great ending, the final chord of the Toccata périgourdine will rattle anything not bolted down.

The instrument you hear on this recording is the 1882 Cavaillé-Coll Organ of the Abbey of Saint-Etienne, Caen, France. This recording was produced in live performance via the Hauptwerk system, which involves MIDI and virtual models of actual instruments. It would take too long to explain clearly how this works, but it is certainly worth your time to investigate it further. It's almost like being in two places at once, or rather like playing an instrument remotely in real-time. If you have a MIDI keyboard and computer at home, you could be playing this Cavaillé-Coll pipe organ in your own living room, by simply downloading the required software. Quite fascinating!

Jean-Yves Duperron - November 2017