Homage - Various Organ Works

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Hellmuth Wolff Organ, Indiana
HOMAGE - Various Organ Works - Carla Edwards (Organist) - 003469691826 - Released: June 2011 - Raven OAR918

As far as concept albums are concerned, this new Raven recording defines the term. Each and every piece on this CD was composed in homage to either a musical predecessor, or to a predecessor's style. And as an album concept in itself, this one ties together very well from start to finish, and the choice of pieces for both similarities and variey, could not be improved on.

1- Milos Sokola: Passacaglia quasi Toccata na tema B-A-C-H
2- J. S. Bach: Organ Concerto in A minor, BWV 593
3- Dieterich Buxtehude: Passacaglia, BuxWV 161
4- Petr Eben: Hommage à Dieterich Buxtehude
5- Joel Martinson: Litany
6- Maurice Duruflé: Prélude et Fugue sur le nom d'Alain, Op. 7
7- Peter Planyavsky: Toccata alla Rumba
8- Samuel Adler: Festive Proclamation

One of the most impressive works in the organ repertoire, let alone on this CD, is the Passacaglia quasi Toccata na tema B-A-C-H by the Czech composer Milos Sokola (1913-1976). He was known for being a slow and methodical composer, and those exact traits stand out in this work, because although it sounds like an impromptu composition, you can tell that each and every note was painstakingly positioned on the page for maximum impact. Over a foundation of B-flat, A, C and B-natural (BACH) constantly repeated on the pedals, the two hands are relentlessly moving forward in what sounds like stylistic patterns and sequences used by Bach himself brought up-to-date with 20th century harmonic twists. This all builds to an impressive finish that ends on a solid major chord.

Bach's own homage to Vivaldi is evident in his Organ Concerto in A minor, BWV 593. A transcription for solo organ of one of Vivaldi's violin concertos. Organist Carla Edwards, Professor of Organ at DePauw University in Indiana where this recording took place, selected just the right combination of stops on this new organ to bring out its Baroque character. The Passacaglia, BuxWV 161 by Buxtehude, one of Bach's strongest influential figures, is given a strong reading that underscores that influence. And of course, the Hommage à Dieterich Buxtehude by Petr Eben (1929-2007), as in the opening piece on this disc, makes great work of combining modern tactics with a 400 year old style, by using direct quotes from Buxtehude's own music to great effect. The other works on this recording all play a part in strenghtening the overall concept behind this CD, and all play a role in highlighting this new instrument's qualities.

It is a 41 stop mechanical action organ, built in 2002 by the firm of Hellmuth Wolff and Associés Ltée, from Laval in Québec, Canada. By many standards, it could be considered small when compared to other modern instruments, but that is what gives it its clean and open sound, which lends itself very well to the works on this CD, the Maurice Duruflé work in particular benefiting very well from its distinct voices and chiffing character. But do not let its size fool you in thinking that this instrument isn't capable of delivering power when it's called for. The Festive Proclamation by Samuel Adler (1928-), will surprise you by its brilliance and heart-stopping final chord.

Highly recommended for organ music fans who like to sample different instruments from around the world, and also for its variety and perfect balance of old and new music, sorted on the disc in a perfectly logical sequence.

Jean-Yves Duperron - June 2011