Classical Editor: Rob Barnett                               Founder Len Mullenger:

Symphonic Organ Music - Vol. 2

Sir Edward ELGAR (1857-1934)
Vesper Voluntaries
Op. 3 No. 1
Ottorino RESPIGHI (1879-1936)
Three Preludes in D minor, A minor and B flat major
Charles GOUNOD
Vincenzo BELLINI
Organ Sonata
Six Preludes for Organ
Hans-Ola Ericsson at the Gerald Woehl Organ of St. Petrus Canisius, Friedrichshafen/Bodensee, Germany (recorded 10-12/10/1999)
BIS CD-1102 [69:15]
  AmazonUK   AmazonUS

The main item in this intriguing programme is Elgar's Vesper Voluntaries dating from 1890. They are brief character pieces - nine in all - occasional works of a sacred nature, intended as antiphons. I regret to report that this reading disappoints. Although it starts off well with an imposing swell for the opening of the Introduction and a nicely shaped Allegro third movement that accentuates its gentle child-like supplications, Hans-Ola Ericsson seems to have little sense of Elgar's nobilmente markings. What in the hands of a sympathetic organist like Donald Hunt is an exhilarating experience (and I am referring especially to those marvellous central Allegretto piacevole - Intermezzo and Poco lento movements) is flabby and lifeless here with hardly any accentuation to lift the spirits. The same criticism applies to the Cantique.

Bearing all that in mind, I felt somewhat insecure about the quality of playing of the other pieces, of which, to be honest, I am unfamiliar. The Respighi Preludes sound impressive enough although I felt the D minor might have had sounded better with more impetus. The theme of this busy little prelude is pursued through the piece through many keys, in stretto, in augmentation, in inversion, in sequences, in motivic fragmentation and in chordal accumulations. The second prelude has as its basis in Bach's Ich hab mein Sach Gott heimgestellt but its refined and very varied accompanying triplet pattern persistently seduces the ear. The final prelude in B flat major is majestic piece based on another Bach chorale, In Dich hab'ich gehoffet, Herr.

Gounod's Offertoire is sweetly serene and in the mould of the composer's Ave Maria. Bellini's Organ Sonata is an amusement - with a very brief processional-like Larghetto that sounds rather pompous followed by an Allegro that could have been an aria from one of the composer's operas. Smetana's Six Preludes were composed when he was just seventeen. They are all very simple but nonetheless effective liturgical pieces and often affecting. They range from a slow moving yet pious sounding Lento through a gentle Pastorale, and a lovely lilting Andante in G minor with interesting rhythmic shifts to a final grand Andante in F major - each prelude becoming slightly more complex and ornamented.

Like the curate's egg, good in parts. But the Elgar disappoints. I have to say that the cover illustration is one of the most tasteless pieces of art I have come across for a long time - organ pipes caricatured as women's legs - how ever did this get through the BIS art department?

Ian Lace

Return to Index

Reviews from previous months
We welcome feedback on our reviews. Please use the Bulletin Board.  Please paste in the first line of your comments the URL of the review to which you refer.This is the only part of MusicWeb for which you will have to register.

You can purchase CDs, tickets and musician's accessories and Save around 22% with these retailers: