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J S BACH (1685-1750) Prelude and Fugue in C Major BWV 547
Sonata No 4 in E Minor BWV 528
William ALBRIGHT (1944-1998) 12 Etudes for small organ; Organbook III, Vol 2
Jig for the feet (Totentanz)
Un pocí allegro
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897) Fugue in A flat minor WoO 8
Jean LANGLAIS (1907-1991) Fete
Libby LARSEN (b 1950) Aspects of Glory; III Tambourines
Dan LOCKLAIR (b1949) Ayre for the Dance
Marcel DUPRE (1886-1971) Variations sur un Noel op 20
Ji-yeon Choi organ
Recorded at the Chapel of Resurrection, Valparaiso University, Indiana, USA
19-20 August 2000
NAXOS 8.555367 [63.04]

The young organist Ji-yeon Choi chooses cannily. From Bach to Libby Larsen via Brahms, Dupré and Langlais, Choi takes in masterpieces of the repertoire as well as intriguing and challenging new works. Her three part voicing in the opening Bach Prelude is worthy of note, albeit I find the pedal note worryingly unpleasant, and maybe her tempo in the succeeding Fugue is too slow, blunting the fugal entries, which sound correspondingly diffused. I enjoyed the elfin registrations of the andante of Bachís magnificent Sonata in E minor, which is sensitively done, and which sounds more glass harmonica than organ. Albrightís three pieces from his Organbook date from 1977. The Jig, a Dance of Death, is predominately staccato, virtuosically frantic, remorseless and black hued. The following Nocturne, by contrast, is crepuscular, magically still and shimmering and excellently played. The Finale, called The Offering, is a something of a cluster study, a raucous Messiaen-influenced piece of high spirits tinged with intimations of unhinged activity.

Brahmsí Fugue is an early work, written when he was twenty-two. As his English follower, Hubert Parry, was later to do, Brahms extends his formal fugal textures into freer, more romantic, writing. Even then his technical mastery is everywhere evident. The slow, reflective conclusion is the work of a confidence born of expertise. By contrast Langlaisí riotous Fete is a jubilant, celebratory work, as befits its title. Its jauntiness is succeeded by a more meditative section before Langlaisís frisky Fete

Ends gloriously. Choi is alive to Libby Larsenís 1990 Tambourines. Beginning at 2.45 Larsen writes an attractive central passage, tonal, rhythmic, before a grand, rhetorical almost unresolved conclusion. Dan Locklairís 1984 Ayre opens with a rocking, insistent nasal motif Ė the registration emphasises the slightly sinister air Ė a second cousin of Boogie Woogie. His flourishes and vampish roulades are an amusing sideshow of this wholly engaging and clever little piece. Dupreís Variations sur un Noel dates from 1922. Its technical complexities embrace canons, a devilish fugue, a carillon, much use of colour, tempo changes and dance themes of real complexity. A piece of subtle beauty and animation it receives from Choi a good performance Ė though her Vivace in the Fifth Variation is more humorous than rapid.

A wide-ranging programme then and generally good performances. Others may well disagree but I found the organ sound distinctly off-putting. Naxos doesnít, unfortunately, print its specifications but itís less than pleasant. Decent notes.

Jonathan Woolf

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