FRENCH FLAVOURS - Paul Carr (Organ)

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Walker and Sons Organ - St Chad's Cathedral
FRENCH FLAVOURS - Various Organ Works - Paul Carr (Organ) - St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham - 802561038429 - Released: June 2012 - Regent REGCD384

1} Naji Hakim - Ouverture Libanaise
2} Gerald Hendrie - Toccata and Fugue in F sharp minor (from Le Tombeau de Marcel Dupré)
3} Marcel Dupré - Esquisse No. 1 in E minor, Op. 41 No. 2
4} Marcel Dupré - Esquisse No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 41 No. 3
5} Henry Purcell - Trumpet Tune (arr Dupré)
6} Sergei Prokofiev - March from The Love of Three Oranges (transcribed by Jean Guillou)
7} Maurice Ravel - Daphnis et Chloé, Suite No. 2 (transcribed by David Briggs)
8} David Briggs - Variations on Greensleeves
9} Hector Berlioz - Hungarian March (transcribed by W.T. Best)
10} Gaston Litaize - Scherzo (from Douze Pièces)
11} Eugène Reuchsel - Nuages ensoleillés sur le Cap Nègre (from Promenades en Provence)

The first solo recording of the magnificent Walker organ in St Chad's Cathedral, played by Birmingham-based organist, Paul Carr, in his début recording. A brilliantly-colourful programme of French and French-inspired works, chosen to match the distinctively-Gallic character of the St Chad's organ. {Regent Records}

The new J. W. Walker and Sons pipe organ in St Chad's Cathedral, Birmingham, may not be very big at only 40 stops, 3 manuals and no 32' stops, but it certainly is living proof that size doesn't matter. By the sounds of it, it seems to me that the designer and builder used the cathedral's own design and acoustics to work to the organ's advantage. Not only does it produce clear, natural and true "pipy" sounds, but when required to go full throttle, it projects an impressively dynamic level of sound that belies its size.

Along with the fact that this is organist Paul Carr's début recording, and the first solo recording of this remarkable instrument, it seems that quite a few of the pieces included on this new CD are making their first appearance, while some of the others have only been recorded once or twice at the most. One of the definitions of "Toccata" is as follows: A composition in the style of an improvisation, meant to display a musician's technique. Aside from their "cliché" endings, the Toccata and Fugue in F sharp minor by English composer Gerald Hendrie (b. 1935) certainly abide by that definition. With its rapid-fire chord punctuations occupying both hands while the pedals intone a mighty melody in the toccata, and an offbeat rhythmic challenge during the complex fugue, these are sure to intimidate many organists brave enough to perform them. The Esquisse No. 2 in B flat minor, Op. 41 No. 3 by Marcel Dupré is definitely more than a mere sketch as its title implies. It is a fully worked out frenetic étude in octaves making full use of the organ's potential as well as the organist's stamina and technique. One of the highlights on this disc is the famous March from The Love of Three Oranges transcribed by organist extraordinaire Jean Guillou. It brings out the instrument's character as well as demonstrates the quality of its various stops. Carr's registration well captures the spirit of the piece. Another revelation is the wonderful David Briggs transcription of the Daphnis et Chloé Suite. It reinforces the fact that a well-designed pipe organ can easily play the role of a one man orchestra. Well, except for one thing. No matter how hard you try, you can't faithfully reproduce a long, steady and sustained crescendo (like the dazzling one that opens Daphnis) on a pipe organ. The sudden addition of stops to increase the volume does not make for a smooth dynamic build-up, but Paul Carr does his best to avoid too much of a jolt, and again brings out the instrument's beauty and versatility. Saving the best for last, the final work on this CD just blew me away. A fantastic work by the relatively unknown French composer Eugène Reuchsel (1900-1988), the Nuages ensoleillés sur le Cap Nègre is so captivating that I can't put its mighty and potent melody out of my head. It is very hard to describe in words, although this line from the liner notes written by David Gammie may help: "Reuchsel conjures up a resplendant toccata in C major to create a vivid musical picture of the sunlit clouds scudding across the sky." While both hands are running up and down the keys playing the role of strong winds, both feet work out the piece's momentous theme in the pedals, while brilliant colors emanate from the multitude of swiftly resonating pipes. Paul Carr leads everything to a wonderful plein-jeux finish, where the power and brilliance of this organ shine through, and with this piece clearly demonstrates his musicianship and multi-tasking talents. Definitely an organist to follow.

Again, Regent Records have managed to capture the true essence of the organ and the space it occupies within this awesome recording. St Chad's Cathedral in your living room. Who needs to travel?

Jean-Yves Duperron - June 2012