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Sounds Inspirational. Organ Music for Pentecost
Carl RÜTTI (b. 1949): Veni Creator Spiritus [5’43"]
Franz TUNDER (1614-1667): Komm, heiliger Geist, Herr Gott [6’23"]
Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (c.1637-1707): Komm, heiliger Geist, Herr Gott, BuxWV 199 [3’45"]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750): Fantasia super Komm, Heiliger Geist, BWV 651 [6’08"]
Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992): Messe de la Pentecôte: Communion [5’31"]; Sortie [3’33"]
Nicholas de GRIGNY (1672-1703): Veni Creator Spiritus: En taille à 5 [2’34"]; Fugue à 5 [2’13"]; Duo [3’18"]; Récit de Cromorne [3’07"]; Dialogue sur les Grands Jeux [3’58"]
Dietrich BUXTEHUDE: Nun bitten wir den Heiligen Geist, BuxWV 209 [2’34"]
Johann Sebastian BACH: Komm, Gott, Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist, BWV 667 [2’09"]
Maurice DURUFLÉ (1902-1986): Prélude, Adagio et Choral Varié sur la thème du Veni Creator [19’54"]
Greg Morris (organ)
Recorded: Blackburn Cathedral 5, 6 and 20 November 2002 DDD
LAMMAS LAMM 159D [70’47"]

This, I strongly suspect, is a double debut CD. It is certainly the first solo CD recital by Greg Morris (b. 1976), who has been sub-organist of Blackburn Cathedral since September 2000. It is also, quite possibly, the first commercial recording to be made on the cathedral’s Walker organ since it was restored and enlarged by Woods of Huddersfield. The history of the instrument and details of the restoration, completed in June 2002, are described in an interesting note by the cathedral’s organist, Richard Tanner, who is also the producer of this present recording.

Greg Morris is clearly an accomplished and discriminating organist and he has chosen and balanced his programme well so that several baroque pieces not only show off different facets of the instrument but also refresh the listener’s musical palette between the twentieth-century works. As will be seen from the list of compositions, all the music is suitable for the feast of Pentecost and much of it is founded on the plainchant hymn Veni Creator Spiritus.

I liked the clarity and sense of style with which Morris plays the baroque music. I don’t find the de Grigny especially rewarding but I can appreciate that it is being done well here. My own favourites among the baroque performances here (perhaps inevitably) are those of the two pieces by Bach. The imposing yet vital Fantasia on Komm, Heiliger Geist comes off splendidly, the music majestic but dancing. The exuberant chorale prelude Komm, Gott, Schöpfer, Heiliger Geist is no less successful.

The piece by the Swiss composer, Carl Rütti, was new to me though I have heard some of his vocal music before and been impressed by it. His Veni Creator Spiritus dates from 1981 and is a most effective opener to the recital. It’s cast in several short sections and is almost a mini set of variations. The powerful toccata passages put me in mind of Messiaen and the piece comes to a thunderous end, which is splendidly voiced here. Morris also includes music by the aforementioned French master. His Messe de la Pentecôte (1950) is not, perhaps, quite so familiar as his three great preceding masterpieces for the instrument, L’Ascension, La Nativité du Seigneur, or Les Corps Glorieux but it’s a fine work and more approachable, I think than the subsequent Livre d’Orgue. Here Greg Morris plays the final two movements. Not only is it logical to present two adjoining movements as excerpts but the chosen ones also contrast well and complement each other. The Communion is packed with birdsong and Morris realizes the complex rhythms well while letting the music breath. Birdsong is present in the concluding Sortie also. There are also powerful episodes in this latter piece and Morris conveys the splendour very well.

Maurice Duruflé was almost an exact contemporary of Messiaen but though they shared a Catholic faith their music was worlds apart. In particular Duruflé eschewed the sheer aural spectacle that we find in Messiaen. Greg Morris gives a fine performance of this subtle and often elusive work. I like the way he realizes the subtle tints of the Prélude. He also paints the subdued colours of much of the Adagio very well. In this movement (track 15) there’s a rather curious effect between 2’16" and 3’11" which I can best describe as sounding like wind-borne harmonics. I am sure this is a deliberate registration, and fascinating it is, but how the effect is achieved I have no idea. The concluding Variations are built up patiently and successfully to a majestic conclusion.

This is a most auspicious debut recital. Not only does Greg Morris play well; he also contributes interesting and sympathetic notes. The recorded sound is extremely good, capturing the organ clearly and realistically within a believable sound picture of the cathedral itself.

John Quinn


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