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Let’s Come To An Arrangement
Johann STRAUSS II (1825-1899) arr. Andrew Wilson
Overture ‘Die Fledermaus’ [8:49]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) arr. Noel Rawsthorne
Sinfonia from Cantata No.29, BWV29 (4:07)
Pyotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY (1840-93) arr. Fred Feibel/Wilson
From The Nutcracker Suite, Op.71 (Miniature Overture [3:36]; Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy [2:05]; Dance of the Mirlitons [2:42]; Waltz of the Flowers [5:37])
Giuseppe VERDI (1813-1901) arr. Edwin Lemare
Grand March from Aïda [6:40]
Edward ELGAR (1857-1934) arr. Herbert Brewer
Chanson de Matin, Op.15. No.2 [3:05]
Edward ELGAR arr. George Martin
Imperial March, Op.32 [5:13]
Gustav HOLST (1874-1934) arr. Arthur Wills
‘Venus’ (‘The Bringer of Peace’) from The Planets, Op.32 [8:01]
William WALTON (1902-1983)
Anniversary Fanfare and Coronation March ‘Orb and Sceptre’ [8:41]
Trad. arr. LEMARE
Auld Lang Syne (2:46)
Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921) arr. Ekaterina Melnikova
From Carnival of the Animals (Introduction and Royal March of the Lion [2:07]; The Elephant [1:32]; The Cuckoo in the Deep Wood [2:34]; Fossils [1:29]; The Swan [2:29]; Finale [2:12])
Andrew Wilson (organ)
rec. Great Malvern Priory, March 2009
REGENT REGCD325 [73:54] 

 

Experience Classicsonline


This is tremendous fun. Purists may run in horror but for the rest of us there is a huge amount to enjoy here. 

The disc showcases some of the organ transcriptions made in bygone years to bring great orchestral music to audiences who may never have gone to a concert hall or opera house.  Many of them come from the great Victorian arrangers W. T. Best and Edwin Lemare who were motivated by a desire to introduce great music to the people of the provinces who would not have been able to hear it in its original format.  It is played here with the utmost virtuosity by Andrew Wilson.  Not only does he know and love the magnificent instrument of Great Malvern Priory, but he has an obvious affection for these arrangements too, revelling in the kaleidoscopic colour of each number. 

The arrangements themselves tend to work – surprisingly - well.  While no one in this day and age would ever wish to be without the orchestral originals, the solution found by each arranger is normally sensitive and remarkably effective.  Some work better than others: the Bach Sinfonia sounds all busy-ness and bustle and feels just like an organ toccata with lots of virtuosity but not a lot of tonal variety.  Elsewhere, though, the contrasts are remarkable.  Take the Fledermaus overture, for example: in Strauss’s original it is common for a theme to be played twice with different instrumentation.  That works surprisingly well here: the first appearance of the waltz theme is bumbling and deep but immediately afterwards it sounds light and airy on a higher registration.  Likewise, the Miniature Overture to The Nutcracker is played on only 8’ and 4’ stops on the organ with no 16’ pitches on the pedal, reflecting the lack of bass instruments in the original.  The Sugar Plum fairy sounds remarkably like a celesta, while the flute stops are pulled out to very good effect for the Dance of the Mirlitons.  Wilson’s scampering fingers do a very good substitute for the harp cadenza at the start of the Waltz of the Flowers and the waltz rhythm carries very effectively on the pedals. 

The Aida march takes more liberties than usual with the written score, but it is very effective as an organ work, the grandeur and scale working very well.  After this the Chanson de Matin sounds rather anaemic (it’s a rather striking contrast!), but the ensuing strength of the Imperial March certainly restores the mood.  Venus is gently affecting, though rather persistently reedy.  Orb and Sceptre is a bit nondescript until the entry of the “big tune” where the tone becomes much more expansive and consequently more impressive.  Lemare’s Auld Lang Syne glows with Victorian sentiment and is all the more lovely for it. 

Of all the works represented here it is The Carnival of the Animals that is most dependent on orchestral colour for its success, and so it is inevitably here that you feel the most musical loss.  It’s a shame not to have clattering xylophones in Fossils, and without the contrast of the clarinet with the pianos the cuckoo loses nearly all of its effect.  That said, the elephant harrumphs away convincingly while the melody of the swan glides through on the pedals against the rippling effects of the hands at the top.  The introduction and finale are both good fun. 

Throughout the disc Wilson’s playing is sensitive and affectionate in music which he clearly has a lot of time for.  Recorded sound is excellent throughout with just the right bloom on the sound without being too distant; the acoustic always helps the sound and never gets in the way.  The excellent booklet notes are informative on each piece with its background, and there is a “biography” of the organ together with its specification. 

A very successful disc; a treat for organ lovers who want something a bit different.

Simon Thompson

 
 


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