MAXINE THEVENOT - Plays the Hellmuth Wolff Op. 47

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Hellmuth Wolff Op 47
MAXINE THEVENOT - Plays the Hellmuth Wolff Op. 47 - Christ Church Cathedral - Victoria, BC, Canada - 034069692920 - Released: November 2011 - Raven OAR929

1- Dietrich Buxtehude: Praeludium in C Major, BuxWV 137
2- Johann Kaspar Kerll: Capriccio sopra il cucu
3- Dietrich Buxtehude: Ciacona in E Minor, BuxWV 160
4- Ruth Watson Henderson: Chromatic Partita for Organ
5- Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck: Balletto del Granduca
6- Johann Sebastian Bach: Pastorale in F Major
7- Nicolaus Bruhns: Praeludium in E Minor
8- Andrew Ager: Première Suite
9- Dietrich Buxtehude: Praeludium in D Major, BuxWV 139

In this day and age of computer chips, digital media, and the race to make everything as small as possible as quickly as possible, it is reassuring and comforting to know that there still exist craftsmen out there willing to plan and build pipe organs like this one, and musicians devoted enough and good enough to play them. Over the last few years, the flowering of the pipe organ into a concert instrument has certainly helped save it from the claws of obsolescence, although in most of the smaller community churches where they were used solely as liturgical support, the organ's pipes now serve as a refuge for bats more than anything else. It's depressing to think of how many wonderful instruments have been forsaken out there around the world.

The Opus 47, the largest organ ever built by the distinguished firm of Hellmuth Wolff & Associates of Laval, Quebec, Canada, was completed in 2005 at Christ Church Cathedral, Victoria, in British Columbia, Canada. For the uninitiated, Op. 47 means this is the 47th instrument designed, planned and constructed by this organ building firm. It's a wonderful instrument (with mechanical action no less) built around 61 stops, that took two years and 28,000 hours of work to create. From its 2' Flagiolet to its 32' Kontraposaune, it is extremely well balanced and can easily display many different characteristics well suited to the style of each piece. A prime example of just that is the complete change of face from the massive final chord of the Dietrich Buxtehude: Praeludium in C Major to the almost barrel organ like sound of the Johann Kaspar Kerll: Capriccio sopra il cucu complete with the song of a nightingale.

Organist Maxine Thévenot's playing always commands attention and her judicial choice of registration from one piece to the next is peerless. I'm not sure how she achieved it, but her dynamic pacing of the Dietrich Buxtehude: Ciacona in E Minor is to be commended. The beauty of invention and purety of voice she brings to the Bach, or the nobility she brings to the Sweelinck are but only some examples of how this musician can expose the soul within the works she performs.

The program itself is varied and goes a long way in displaying the many facets of this organ. The music spans 400 years, from Jan Pieterszoon Sweelinck born in 1562 to Andrew Ager born in 1962, whose Première Suite makes its recording debut on this CD. It's a piece in 6 short movements that combines the best of the old traditions with new ideas and really brings out the subtle charms and the grand scale power of a pipe organ.

Once again Raven Recordings have done what they do best. Capture and reproduce the sound of an organ so well as to place you, the listener, in its environment. You can practically hear the air rushing through the low note pedal pipes of the opening Buxtehude prelude, or imagine a shepherd playing the flute in the Bach Pastorale. Impressive!

Jean-Yves Duperron - January 2012