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Sounds from the Heart
Jean-Francois DANDRIEU

Offertoire in d minor [4'17]
Antoine DORNEL (c.1680-after 1756)

from Livre d'Orgue: Recit en taille; Basse et dessus de trompette; Recit en dialogue
J.S. BACH (1685-1750)

Toccata and Fugue in d minor BWV 565 [8'27]
Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring [3'29]
Jean-Jacques BEAUVARLET-CHARPENTIER (1734-1794)

Noel dans le gout de la symphonie-concertante [6'46]
Alexandre Pierre Francois BOELY (1785-1858)

Offertoire pour la messe du jeudi saint [4'08]
Offertoire pou le jour de Pacques [5'11]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)

Fantasia and Fugue on BACH [12'50]
Theodore DUBOIS (1837-1924)

from Sept Pieces: Interlude [3'29]; Marcietta [2'05]
César FRANCK (1822-1890)

Choral III [13'13]
Peter St. John Stokes, organ
Rec: 28 January 2005, St Silas Church, Kentish Town, London. DDD
LAMMAS LAMM 185D [70'44]

It is with little less than profound dismay that I attempt to review this disc. How such a respected British church music label as Lammas should produce a recording of such irrelevance is no less than disturbing. Indeed, I would go as far as to say that this CD represents a new low-point in commercial British organ recording.

The first element of the disc which is so distressing is the instrument. Why would any label in a country such as Britain, where there are still many interesting instruments, (often far more interesting than we as organists appreciate), choose to record an electronic organ? Even if it is a custom-built Copeman Hart electronic organ, it is still an electronic organ which sounds like an electronic organ. It is completely beyond my comprehension how Lammas could consider this instrument worthy of commercial recording. As if to add insult to injury, we are told that the church houses a 1772 seven stop chamber organ by one Jonas Ley, of which we hear nothing.

The quality of playing on the CD though is in a sense more disturbing than the quality of the instrument. Peter St. John Stokes, organist of St Silas is a one-time student of Francis Jackson. "For years later he went to London to study at Trinity College of Music" we are mysteriously told. I am quite sure that Mr St. John Stokes is committed to enhancing the liturgy at St Silas, and that his efforts are very much appreciated by the parishioners there. However, he should not be making commercial recordings. Unfortunately his playing features many note-inaccuracies, rhythmic instability and inaccuracy, an inability to play in a single tempo (especially in the Bach Fugue), clipped phrasing in the Dandrieu and Beauvarlet-Charpentier and lack of controlled legato in the Franck. His programme notes show that he is an intelligent musical commentator, but his playing is not at a similar level.

So, Lammas have made a CD of a flawed player playing an electronic organ. In the case of no other musical instrument would such inadequacy be featured on a commercial recording. Why is it that such organ recordings are allowed to be made and sold to the general public? A couple of years ago I met, by accident, one of Britain's very leading organist/teachers in Westminster Cathedral. I asked him what, if any, recording projects he was planning at that time. His reply shocked me. He said "I will probably never make a recording again. It used to be that making a recording meant that you had achieved something. Now anybody can make one, it doesn't mean anything any more." The present recording makes it hard to argue with those thoughts.

I hope that for Lammas, and for British organ recording in general, this CD represents no more than an blip, albeit of astonishing proportions.

Chris Bragg



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