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]

Now this is an interesting programme. Those who collect organ CDs will surely agree we need more varied and eclectic recitals, especially as thereís 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 DuprŤ Ė recorded around the same time as this Heritage release Ė was a major let-down (review). Musically itís 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 cathedralís untamed acoustic doesnít help either.

Paul Trepte, who succeeded Arthur Wills as Elyís organist and director of music, is an obvious choice for this recording, made several years before the Harrison instrumentís latest refurb in 1999-2000. That said, heís up against formidable competition from Kalevi Kivinemi in the Sibelius; indeed, the latterís disc of Sibeliusís úuvre for organ Ė review Ė was on my shortlist of Recordings of the Year 2010. Sadly Trepteís performance of the majestic Intrada, written for the Swedish Royal coupleís visit to Helsinki in 1925, is unfocused and underpowered. Just listen to the breadth and heft of Kiviniemiís reading Ė and Fugaís demonstration-quality recording. Now that really is magisterial.

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

Glazunovís Fantaisie, dedicated to Marcel DuprŤ, has all the energy and sparkle one might expect from such a piece Ė 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 DuprŤ 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 Mushelís Toccata. Thereís a splendid ripple and pulse to this showstopper, which deserves to be more widely programmed.

Carl Nielsenís final work Commotio is another of those bold, imaginative works we donít hear often enough. That said, its vigorous inner workings arenít always as clear as they might be in this recording; still, Trepte finds the right blend of rhythm, detail and colour, the organís occasional woody Ďhonkí sounding entirely apt here. And for a substantial piece Ė around 23 minutes Ė Commotio doesnít outstay its welcome. But the best comes last, with a richly expansive performance of Glazunovís Prelude and Fugue in D, dedicated to Saint-SaŽns. Thereís something of the stern pedagogue in the prelude, the articulation of the fugue certain to bring a twinkle to the masterís 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 arenít good enough for a CD that retails at around £10. Still, itís the music that matters, and despite minor caveats Iím happy to recommend this release to organ aficionados everywhere.

Dan Morgan

Will appeal to organ aficionados everywhere.