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Rosa Mystica – Organ Music from Brentwood Cathedral played by James Devor
Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844 – 1937)

Finale from Symphonie VI [6:06]
Jean LANGLAIS (1907 – 1991)

Rosa mystica from Triptyque grégorien (1978) [4:32]
Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583 – 1643)

Aria detto Ballestto [9:43]
Herbert HOWELLS (1892 – 1983)

Psalm-Prelude on Psalm 139 (1938) [6:42]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 – 1750) arr. Marcel DUPRÉ

Sinfonia from Cantata No. 29 (1783; 1941) [4:18]
Samuel BARBER (1910 – 1981) arr. CULLEN

Adagio for Strings (1938) [8:09]
Jeremiah CLARKE (c. 1670 – 1707)

Trumpet Voluntary [2:18]
Guy BOVET (b. 1942)

Toccata Planyanska [5:25]
Léon BOËLLMANN (1862 – 1897)

Priére á Notre-Dame from Suite Gothique [4:22]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685 – 1750)

Prelude and Fugue in C Minor BWV 549 [5:27]
Andrew WRIGHT (b. 1955)

O Lamb of God I Come [3:42]
Olivier MESSIAEN (1908 – 1992)

Dieu parmi nous (La nativité du Seigneur) (1935) [8:28]
James Devor (organ)
rec. Brentwood Cathedral, Brentwood, Essex, England, December 2004, January 2005. DDD
HERALD HAVPCD308 [69:14]

For longer than I have been alive, my Nan has lived in the village of Doddinghurst, about four miles from Brentwood. I have never been to Brentwood Cathedral, but having heard this disc I will make the effort to catch an organ recital there next time I visit. If the recital program is as well varied as that presented here, and the organist as skilful as James Devor, I will be well pleased.

There are three groups of people who will be interested in this disc. Firstly, there are those who are curious to hear the instrument. This is the premiere recording of the organ of Brentwood Cathedral, an instrument of Victorian vintage which was initially installed in the Church of St Mary-at-the-Walls in Colchester. On the evidence here, it is a fine instrument, with clear upper pipes, a bass that resists the tendency of so many organs to rumble around the pitch, and only a little congestion of sound when the stops are out. The instrument's newly-installed trumpet stop shows its worth in Clarke's Trumpet Voluntary and the Cathedral's reverberant acoustic helps more than it hinders.

Secondly, there will be those interested in the organist. James Devor is only beginning his career, but seems very much the master of his instrument. His playing is sensitive throughout, and each piece presented is played with its context in mind. I especially liked Devor's ruminative treatment of the works of Howells and Messiaen, as well as his thoughtful rendition of the album's title track. His playing elsewhere is good without being outstanding. You will, for example, find better versions of Bach's Prelude and Fugue in C Minor BWV 549. He also loses some of his clarity and rhythmic assurance in a boisterous performance of the opening Widor. There is a lot of promise here, though, and his career will be one to watch.

The third group of people is perhaps the most important. Those who know some organ music – perhaps some of the more famous works by Bach – like it, but do not really know where to go from there - will be won over by this disc. James Devor has put together a recital that will fire the imagination of organ novices and leave them wanting more. It would be all too easy for a young organist, given the chance to record a recital to indulge him or herself in the music of a favourite composer. Devor has instead assembled a program of contrasts. His recital covers a period from the early 17th Century to the present day, showcasing a broad array of styles in organ composition, from the charming Frescobaldi Aria detto Balletto to the transcendental Dieu parmi nous (La nativité du Seigneur) of Messiaen. Devor also juxtaposes big, bold pieces with more contemplative fare. The opening tracks are a case in point. After the stops-out triumph of the Widor, we pull back to more contemplative territory, with Devor's sensitive playing creating a time-stopping effect in the Langlais. Finally, Devor is careful to mix the well known with the unknown. He opens his recital with the finale to Widor's Organ Symphonie VI, a refreshing acknowledgement that Widor wrote more than the ubiquitous Toccata from his Organ Symphonie V. There are old chestnuts (the Clarke), arrangements of famous works (a wonderfully inward Adagio for Strings), and more obscure pieces (the Wright was new to me), the combination of which makes this recital so rewarding. That Devor understands all of these pieces is communicated musically by his playing and verbally in his witty and informative liner notes. A worthy release indeed.

Tim Perry

 

 



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