Edwin LEMARE (1866-1934)
Organ Works - Volume 1
Concertstuck No.1 - Written in the form of a Polonaise op.80 (1911) [6:25]
Andantino in D? (1882) [3:19]
Caprice Orientale op.46 (1902) [3:21]
Organ Symphony No.1 in G minor op.35 (1899) [32:50]
Lars Rosenlund Nørremark (Frobenius Organ of Aarhus Cathedral)
rec. Aarhus Cathedral November 2009; February 2010. DDD.

I imagine that to many the name of Edwin Lemare is rather like that of Busoni in relation to Bach - Busoni being the smaller man in the Bach-Busoni relationship. Lemare made many transcriptions for organ of orchestral works. And superb arrangements they are too! Saint-Saëns’s Danse Macabre, Mendelssohn’s Ruy Blas Overture and Elgar’s 1st Pomp and Circumstance March all got the Lemare treatment, and they are most effective. They were made at the time when home music-making was still the norm and the chances of actually hearing a full orchestra were slim, so here was a chance to hear some orchestral music. There was also something of the showman about them, for these transcriptions allowed Lemare, who was a virtuoso organist, to show off his abilities in symphonic repertoire. Lemare was a fairly prolific composer but until this disk came my way I’d only ever heard one work of his; the Fantasia on Hanover, a short but strong piece.

The biggest piece here is the Symphony. In four large movements, this work is a match for any of the French Symphonies by Widor and his compatriots. It’s bold and romantic, full of rich harmonies, long-breathed tunes and a real epic feel. Although this is obviously an English work, there are reminiscences of both French and German music in it. But it’s none the worse for that, it’s just a composer writing in the language of his own time. The finale, in particular, is a true pièce héroïque, complete with fugue and stretto conclusion. It’s a marvellous work and will surprise anyone who only knows the transcriptions.

Two years after completing the Symphony Lemare made his first trip to America and the following year he became the Organist to the City of Pittsburgh, where he wrote the Caprice Orientale - a charming genre piece. The Andantino became known when American songwriters Ben Black and Neil Moret (Pseudonym for Charles N Daniels) created the lyric Moonlight and Roses. Andantino thus became a million seller. Unfortunately for the songsmiths they hadn’t bothered to get copyright permission to use the tune and Lemare sued successfully, and earned from the royalties of the song - which is just as well for he sold the original work for three guineas asnd never made a penny from the organ work.

Concertstuck No.1 - Written in the form of a Polonaise could almost be a study for the bolder passages in the Symphony, and were it not for the Polonaise element could almost pass for a movement of that work.

This is a fascinating disk and one which has been needed for some time - although I didn’t know that until I heard it! Lemare might be a man of his time but he’s certainly worth a listen. Lars Rosenlund Nørremark plays with full belief in the music, a deep understanding of it, and a fine technique which allows him to play the most difficult music as if it were the simplest thing imaginable. He also supplies a very detailed and fascinating essay in the book, which is published in both Danish and English. I can hardly wait for volume 2.

Bob Briggs

I can hardly wait for volume 2