This CD was originally released in 1994, re-issued since at
least once, and is still widely available on the internet. Kevin
Bowyer's recordings for Nimbus have bequeathed to posterity
around 50 almost without exception memorable CDs. The discography
available on his website
is three years out of date, but 14 pages long; his incredible
Sorabji Organ Project
is still unfolding, but its completion promises to be one of
the greatest organ events in the history of music.
Bowyer is deeply familiar with the great French contemporaries
of Jean Langlais, and their precursors, having learnt as a student
the organ symphonies of Vierne, Widor and Dupré, and later recorded
for Nimbus the organ works of Alkan (recently reviewed)
and Alain, as well as Messiaen on Continuum and Alkan again
The first two of Langlais' three Symphonies for organ are the
focal points of Bowyer's recital on one of Canada's best instruments,
built by Casavant in 1987 at the Jack Singer Hall in Calgary.
The First Symphony is most easily summed up with the word 'monumental',
and its sprawling-towering sound-world is in many ways typical
of Langlais' organ writing: complex, tonally mysterious, exalted,
agitated, virtuosic, inventive. Though both Symphonies are in
four movements, the whole of the Second is shorter than any
single movement of the First - hence the subtitle 'Alla Webern'.
Yet the Second Symphony has similar attributes in an ultra-condensed
form, with the added kick of serialist writing!
The Suite Brève is more modest and witty - though still not
exactly 'light' - as are the two movements of the Suite Française
that precede it - it is unclear why Nimbus chose to plump up
the CD by recording these two unconnected sections rather than
some work in its entirety, when much of Langlais' organ music
lies neglected - although American organist and Langlais disciple/scholar
Ann Labounsky has recorded his complete works on 26 CDs for
the US Musical Heritage Society over nearly a quarter of a century,
apparently to be released soon in a boxed set, details of all
of which are available on Labounsky's website.
The rhythmic and harmonic extravagances of the Poem of Happiness
will not be everyone's idea of bliss, but the work brings Bowyer's
splendid potted history of Langlais' organ music to an arresting
Sound quality is very good - this is one of Nimbus's best organ
recordings. Only the very deepest sounds are compromised. The
CD booklet, on the other hand, is more functional than anything:
there is nothing at all about the Carthy organ, nor, surprisingly,
about Bowyer - only one of the finest organists of modern times
- but it is neat and the notes on Langlais and his organ music
by Felix Aprahamian are informative.
Collected reviews and contact at reviews.gramma.co.uk