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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett

 

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University of Evansville Department of Music

Douglas Reed (organ)
In Memoriam William Albright
Johann Sebastian BACH
(1685-1750)
Praeludium in C Major BWV 566a [11’18]
Jean-Adam GUILAIN (?)
Suite du Second Ton [12’29]
Johann Gottfried WALTHER (1684-1748)
Meinem Jesum laß ich nicht [10’17]
Johannes BRAHMS (1833-1897)
From op. 122 chorale preludes [8’29]: Herzlich tut mich verlangen; Es ist ein Ros’ entsprungen; Herzlich tut mich erfreuen
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Prière op. 20 [13’18]
William ALBRIGHT (1944-1998)
1732: In Memoriam Johannes Albrecht (1984) [18’21]
Douglas Reed (organ)
Robert Nicholls (narrator)
rec. First Presbyterian Church, Evansville, Indiana, USA, 21-23 August 1997. DDD
MULBERRY ST RECORDINGS [74’25]


No doubt who the star of the show is here. Fisk’s op. 98, a large two manual instrument, dates from 1991 and cunningly re-uses four stops from an organ by Marshall Bros (1874), and, perhaps more remarkably, five stops from a 1925 organ by Casavant. Local sources tell me that it is one of the company’s best organs of the post-Charles Brereton Fisk era. Here it proves itself genuinely versatile, sounding as it does highly convincing and musically engaging in music varying from Bach, through French Classical, to Brahms, Franck and beyond. The ability of the instrument to apply itself to such a wide range of repertoire is all the more startling when one considers the synoptic specification:

GT 16 (Prestant) 8, 8, 8, 4, 4, 2 2/3, 2, 1 3/5, IV-VIII 16, 8

SW 16, 8, 8, 8, 4, 2 2/3, 2, II (with tierce), IV, 8 8

PED 16, 16 (GT), 16, 8, 4, 16, 8

The room is dry, but one hardly notices. The 8s have a warmth which makes them ideal for Brahms and Franck, the plenum is brilliant and characterful enough to hold one’s attention in Bach, and the reeds fiery enough to provided a committed éclat to the French music in general.

Among the well-known repertoire one curiosity stands out. William Albright was, until his untimely death, Professor of Composition at the University of Michigan and a revered composer in the US. He composed for nearly every medium, including a substantial corpus of organ works. Here, the story of his ancestors’ emigration to the US from Southwestern Germany is presented as a “program sonata”, narrated by the (English) organist of the church, Robert Nicholls. Albright’s music is characterised by almost surreal contrast – from atonality to folk-fiddle music, (last movement), to quotes from Bach and Mussorgsky. This stylistic smorgasbord is frankly, for me, a little too much and I am left with no clear impression of Albright the composer. It must be said though that Douglas Reed is at his best here, handling the material with commitment, virtuosity and imagination. Shortly I will review a double-CD set of him playing other compositions by Albright.

Elsewhere Reed’s playing is a little wooden for me, though technically excellent. The Bach lacks drama and monumentality, while the Guilain is too straightforward. He fares better in the 19th century literature, especially the Brahms. The Franck is also beautiful, but, again, I longed for more flexibility in the line, and a more fluid tempo. Reed is the University organist of Evansville and studied at Eastman with Russell Saunders.

Despite Reed’s slightly safe playing, this is warmly recommended for the superb organ, and the curiosity which is the Albright.

Chris Bragg

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University of Evansville Department of Music


 



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