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
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.
by John France