Marcel DUPRÉ (1886 - 1971) Deuxième Symphonie pour orgue, op.26 (1929) [2057]
Giles SWAYNE (b.1946) Riff - Raff (1983) [1735]
Joseph JONGEN (1873 - 1953) Sonata eroica, op.94 (1930) [1559]
Frank BRIDGE (1879 - 1941) Adagio in E (1906) [847]
Marcel DUPRÉ Deux Esquisses, op.41 (1943) [708]
Tobias Frank (organ)
rec. 10-12 December 2007, Klais-Orgeln der Benediktinerabtei Schweiklberg, Niederbayern. DDD

To be honest with you, I only really wanted to review this disk because it contains a piece by Giles Swayne, one of the more interesting British composers born immediately after the Second World War. What staggered me was just how good, and how exciting, Dupré’s Symphony is. This isn’t a big work in terms of playing time, but it’s gigantic in terms of concept and imagination. Considering the time it was written, it’s quite forward-looking, with regard to style and harmony. I originally thought that there was a lot of Jehan Alain in the music, until I realised that Alain was too young in 1929 to be able to influence anyone - thus we must see Dupré as a major influence on the younger man. And what’s even more of a shock, is to discover just how much Thierry Escaich owes to Dupré in his compositions for organ. This is big, bold, music, thrilling and with much to recommend it; good tunes, colourful registration, succinct and with a real purpose.

Swayne’s work can stand comparison with the Dupré, and it doesn’t suffer from being placed next to it. Swayne studied the music of the Jola, an ethnic group from South Senegal and Senegambia, in the early 1980s and, the notes tell us, he worked his discoveries into this piece. Maybe he did, but what I hear is a piece which is more funk than ethnic. Although, in some ways, funk is quite an ethnic music. Starting with bold, separate chords, the work really gets underway with the introduction of a rhythmic idea on the pedals, and the music grows, sometimes as free fantasia, sometimes as a chaconne. There is the most joyous outburst of dancing about half way through the piece. If anyone had any doubts about the easy accessibility of either contemporary music or organ music in general then this work should be heard, for it is very easily approachable, using a straight forward language, although not, perhaps, in a straight forward way, but making perfect sense. This is a real winner of a piece and should be in every organists repertoire because it would provide such relief from, what can sometimes be, a solemn experience, the reverence of an organ recital! Magnificent.

After these two huge pieces, Jongen’s famous Sonata eroica seems rather small scale! And small scale is not the expression one could use for this famous piece, one of the staples of the organ repertoire. This is another of those big dramatic romantic organ works which make a big impression, especially in the reflective moments, but it fails to do so here because of what has preceded it, this is no criticism of Jongen’s work, just an unfortunate piece of programming.

Frank Bridge’s beautiful Adagio from 1906 is so very English that it comes as a surprise after the Dupré and Jongen. It’s a lovely little piece, which has a dignity to it, in the manner of Nimrod, but quite unlike that piece, musically. There is a fine climax in the middle and the surrounding quiet music is quite exquisite.

The first of Dupré’s Deux Esquisses is quite charming, light and frothy, whereas the latter is bold and brassy, but still festive and it never protests, which music of this type could quite easily do. Together they make a fine ending to a recital which is strong on challenging music, but equally bold in its entertainment value. Tobias Frank is a very exciting young player and he’s in total control of the Klais-Orgeln der Benediktinerabtei Schweiklberg, Niederbayern, which has been recorded with plenty of presence and the ambiance of the Church is always in evidence.

I must admit that it’s only recently that I’ve started listening to organ recitals - live and on CD - and I am most impressed by what I have heard. And look at the vast repertoire I now have to investigate! If you’re a beginner like me then this is a fantastic disk with which to start your explorations, if you’re already a lover of music for the organ, and you’re after some new repertoire this delivers what you want in the shape of a very interesting new British work. This disk cannot fail.

Bob Briggs