Schubert sonatas

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Alexandre GUILMANT (1837-1911)
Grand Chorus in g minor op 84 [6'51]
Caprice in B flat major op 20 No 3 [3'36]
Allegretto in b minor op 19 No 1 [5'52]
Lamentation in d minor op 45 No 1 [11'19]
Offertoire 'O filii' op 49 No 2 [6'45]
Sonata No 7 in F major op 89: iv) Lento assai (Reve) [4'29]
March on a theme by Handel op 15 No 2 [6'50]
Scherzo Symphonique in C major op 55 No 2 [7'36]
Noel languedocien, Communion No 2 in f monir op 60 [5'11]
Sonata No 1 in d minor op 42: iii) Finale: Allegro Assai [8'56]
Robert Delcamp (organ)
rec. All Saints' Chapel, University of the South, Sewanee, Tenessee, USA, 10, 13 October 2004. DDD
NAXOS 8.557614 [70'24]


It seems to me a shame that Naxos have limited their Guilmant chapter of their extensive ‘Organ Encyclopaedia’ to one 'best of' disc. Movements from two sonatas and some other sacred and secular works make up a relatively satisfactory programme; still I would have wished for a whole sonata at least.

Robert Delcamp, the former student of Louis Robilliard and organist of The University of the South in Sewanee, where this CD was recorded, plays well, just as on his previous CD of Saint-Saëns. Occasionally I miss a little flexibility and warmth in his playing, his expressive vocabulary seems more influenced by American liturgical organ playing than by extensive time spent in France. If this seems overly negative, it’s not meant to be; I admire Delcamp's well considered tempi, phrasing, control and sense of space. What for me is lacking is simply that last step that brings the sometimes vapid, though usually very well constructed, music of Guilmant off the page. At the risk of sounding like a broken record, check out Ben van Oosten on MDG. His cycle of the Guilmant sonatas recorded in Rouen was memorably described by one reviewer as 'definitive'. He wasn't wrong.

Delcamp isn't helped by the instrument he has chosen to record, his 'own' 60s Casavant with added, horrible digital 32s, (don't tell me you can't tell the difference, you can!). The organ is actually a good example of Northern American Classic organ building from the G Donald Harrison era, and it finds itself in a good acoustical situation. The foundations serve the music well, but at registrations above mf, the upperwork becomes too prominent and the reeds are in general a bit smooth. The tutti is loud rather than grand, and the Antiphonal party horn, occasionally, unforgivably, coupled to the tutti, is just crass.

This release is OK, but there are more interesting releases of Guilmant around.  See also Kurt Lueders's new harmonium CD on Hortus, 'Noel au Salon'. A review will appear shortly.

Chris Bragg

see also Review by John France


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