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CD: MDT AmazonUK
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Organ Music from Northern Europe
Jean SIBELIUS (1865-1957)
Intrada, Op. 111a (1925) [5:57]
Surusoitto, Op. 111b (Mournful music) (1931) [6:47]
Niels W. GADE (1817-1890)
Tone Pieces, Op. 22 (1851)
I. Moderato [4:17]
II. Allegretto [3:11]
III. Allegro [3:44]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Fantaisie, Op. 110 (1934-1935) [15:56]
Georgy MUSHEL (1909-1989)
Toccata [4:03]
Carl NIELSEN (1865-1931)
Commotio, Op. 58 (1931) [22:58]
Alexander GLAZUNOV (1865-1936)
Prelude and Fugue in D, Op. 98 (1914) [8:21]
Paul Trepte (organ)
rec. January 1992, Ely Cathedral, UK
HERITAGE HTGCD 214 [76:13]

Experience Classicsonline

Now this is an interesting programme. Those who collect organ CDs will surely agree we need more varied and eclectic recitals, especially as there’s so much underplayed repertoire out there. And to have it played on the Harrison organ of Ely Cathedral would be an added bonus. That said, the Ely/Regis disc of music by Marcel Duprč – recorded around the same time as this Heritage release – was a major let-down (review). Musically it’s very uneven and technically it falls well short of the standards set by more recent organ recordings, notably those from Finnish labels Alba and Fuga. And the cathedral’s untamed acoustic doesn’t help either.

Paul Trepte, who succeeded Arthur Wills as Ely’s organist and director of music, is an obvious choice for this recording, made several years before the Harrison instrument’s latest refurb in 1999-2000. That said, he’s up against formidable competition from Kalevi Kivinemi in the Sibelius; indeed, the latter’s disc of Sibelius’s œuvre for organ – review – was on my shortlist of Recordings of the Year 2010. Sadly Trepte’s performance of the majestic Intrada, written for the Swedish Royal couple’s visit to Helsinki in 1925, is unfocused and underpowered. Just listen to the breadth and heft of Kiviniemi’s reading – and Fuga’s demonstration-quality recording. Now that really is magisterial.

Trepte is rather more successful with Soisurotto (Mournful music), written for the funeral of Sibelius’s artist friend Akseli Gallen-Kallela (1865-1931). He finds just the right balance between dark gravitas and bright splendour, and although the recording can’t begin to match the wide dynamics of Kivinemi’s disc it’s still pretty impressive. As for the three Tone Pieces by Sibelius’s compatriot Niels Gade, they’re attractive enough, although not terribly distinguished. Trepte’s judicious choice of registration and his general lightness of approach – the central Allegretto is especially buoyant – certainly gives the music a much-needed lift.

Glazunov’s Fantaisie, dedicated to Marcel Duprč, has all the energy and sparkle one might expect from such a piece – and some lovely, filigreed writing one might not. The recording is clear and detailed, the organ pedals especially well caught, adding real frisson to this performance. Indeed, the panoply of sound at the close is worthy of anything Duprč might have improvised at St-Sulpice or Notre-Dame. And although the sound is a tad fierce in the climaxes, that matters little when the playing is as red-blooded as this. Even more thrilling is the vast wash of sound Trepte conjures up in Georgy Mushel’s Toccata. There’s a splendid ripple and pulse to this showstopper, which deserves to be more widely programmed.

Carl Nielsen’s final work Commotio is another of those bold, imaginative works we don’t hear often enough. That said, its vigorous inner workings aren’t always as clear as they might be in this recording; still, Trepte finds the right blend of rhythm, detail and colour, the organ’s occasional woody ‘honk’ sounding entirely apt here. And for a substantial piece – around 23 minutes – Commotio doesn’t outstay its welcome. But the best comes last, with a richly expansive performance of Glazunov’s Prelude and Fugue in D, dedicated to Saint-Saėns. There’s something of the stern pedagogue in the prelude, the articulation of the fugue certain to bring a twinkle to the master’s eye. Not the showpiece one might expect, perhaps, but deftly scored and played.

This release augurs well for others in the Heritage series, although the skimpy liner-notes aren’t good enough for a CD that retails at around £10. Still, it’s the music that matters, and despite minor caveats I’m happy to recommend this release to organ aficionados everywhere.

Dan Morgan








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