Certainly a disc for organ buffs. This is a
collection of relatively unknown pieces by various composers,
many of them also relatively unknown. They are played by two
highly proficient young organists, both trained in Mexico and
Holland. The disc is supported by the French Ministry of Overseas
Affairs, and it has been a very worthwhile enterprise. It comes
as part of a series of recordings in the "Les Chemins du
Baroque." This appears to be a type of club, where, by
subscribing, one can purchase numerous recordings of baroque
music (choral and instrumental) and receive free gifts of boxed
sets of discs.
When Mexico was originally settled by the Spanish,
many churches were built to the glory of God, and of course
these needed organs as part of their fabric. Originally these
were imported from Europe, and because of the demand for further
instruments, many organ builders operating in Mexico trained
Indians to build the instruments to try to increase the level
of output. So successful were they that in 1561 Phillip II of
Spain issued a decree forbidding the teaching of organ building
to the Indians. The reason for this was that the Indians appeared
to be better at it than the Spaniards. However, by then, the
genie had got out of the bottle, and breakaway organ builders
were operating in Mexico.
Organ building in Europe was influenced by
the great organ composers, and the designs were modified over
time to suit their demands. In Mexico however, where there as
no such tradition, the designs stayed much the same as they
had been in the 1550s when the originals had been imported.
The Cholula organ, built in 1850 by Miguel
Gregorio Castro, was restored in 1994 by the French organ restorer,
Pascal Quorin. According to the sleeve note, it had not been
played for about 100 years! Unlike current European instruments
having multiple manuals, this organ has only a single 54 note
keyboard, and uses 7 registers controlled by the left hand and
a further 8 for the right hand.
This leads to a somewhat monochrome sound,
and indeed when I first played this disc (at a low level) I
was very disappointed with it. However, by raising the level,
the true glory of the instrument is revealed. Whilst not really
a disc for listening to without a break, I can recommend this
to anyone who wishes to hear the sound of an early instrument
which we might have thought had gone forever playing works which
were contemporaneous with the basic instrument design.
The pedigree of the two organists is impeccable
for this type of repertoire, the restoration of the instrument
seems to have been done very expertly, and I am sure that if
the repertoire and type of instrument attract you, you will
not be disappointed.