Just for Fun: Riff-Raff and Rhumba
Robert ELMORE (1913-1985)
Fantasy on Nursery Tunes [6:24]
Guy BOVET (b.1942)
Fugue on Henry Mancini's 'Pink Panther' Theme [2:17]
Giles SWAYNE (b.1946)
Maurice DURUFLÉ (1902-1986)
Scherzo op.2 [7:05]
Robert SCHUMANN (1810-1856)
Skizze in D flat [3:04]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750) [spurious]
Fantasia and Fugue in A minor BWV.561 [9:45]
Florence Mustric (organ)
rec. Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, Cleveland, Ohio, March 2007. DDD
MSR CLASSICS MS 1272 [63:56]
This is Volume 3 in the MSR Classics series entitled "Florence Mustric Plays". Volume 2, played on the same organ, is reviewed here. This latest release carries the subtitle "Just for Fun", which is perhaps a bit of an exaggeration - the varied programme is more light than light-hearted, and with several pieces lacking in memorable fibre, comes across as a little unfocused.
The two works by American organist-composer Robert Elmore date back to the 1950s. The Rhumba starts off artlessly enough, even with its superfluous 'h', but it does not take long before the organist's feet are dancing over the pedals, and even playing the melody. The Fantasy on Nursery Tunes consists of psychedelic versions of 'Three Blind Mice', 'Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star' (with bells on), 'London Bridge is Falling Down', and 'Pop Goes the Weasel' all following one another, before Elmore combines them neatly in the final bars.
Guy Bovet is a Swiss organist and composer with a large discography, mainly on the Gallo label as an organist. His Fugue on Henry Mancini's 'Pink Panther' Theme is fairly self-descriptive. Salamanca is one of the most interesting works on the disc: the first of three so-called 'Hamburg' preludes from his Third Organ Book of 1971-74, it begins with unusual drum and flute effects, and then continues in stirring military mode, perhaps alluding to the famous Battle of Salamanca in 1812.
In her brief booklet notes Mustric describes Giles Swayne's Riff-Raff as a "cross-over work", which is probably true in a sense, in that minimalist and rock music techniques are employed - 'riff' indicating ostinato in popular parlance - but this is not necessarily a piece to have fans of those genres drawing their chairs closer. The work is perhaps a little too repetitive or long-winded overall, but there are many imaginative moments, as well as virtuosic ones - as Mustric puts it, Swayne "occasionally ignores human limitations". This is especially true towards the end as the repeating patterns come thicker and faster, to mesmerising effect.
The Scherzo op.2 by Maurice Duruflé is "as French and as light as a successful soufflé", according to Mustric. It is a slow, rather low-key scherzo, mildly jocular perhaps, but not exactly the life and soul. Robert Schumann wrote only one work for organ proper, but a CD's worth if pedal piano works are counted. The Skizze ('Sketch') in D flat is the fourth of four he wrote for pedal piano in 1845, published as his opus 58. It is slight enough to live up to its title, but still pretty.
The best-known work on this disc is probably Fantasia and Fugue in A minor, BWV 561. This was once thought to be by Johann Sebastian Bach, but is now widely regarded as spurious, and listed in the New Grove Dictionary as such - for authentic Bach, the listener should consider Volume 2. Nevertheless, this CD describes BWV 561 as being by Bach, and Mustric writes in her notes, "I cannot imagine a likelier composer." Whoever the author is - and its simplicity of design does suggest a lesser mind than Bach's - Mustric plays it if not exactly with a purpose, then with aplomb, and rounds off the recital nicely.
Overall, Mustric gives a solid performance in what is essentially a programme that requires a sense of playfulness more than virtuosity. Sound quality is reasonable without being excellent - there is a certain amount of background hiss/hum, more evident in the quieter passages - in Duruflé's Scherzo, in particular.
The organ itself, built in 1956 in Hamburg, is not the greatest-sounding instrument ever made - Mustric admits that it is scheduled for restoration - but it is far from disagreeable. The booklet gives a good description of the organ's 'spec', along with helpful, non-technical explanations of how the organ works and what some of the terminology means. Unfortunately, notes on the composers or even Mustric herself are non-existent.
A programme that requires playfulness more than virtuosity.