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The Britannic Organ - Volume 12: Last Voyage
OEHMS OC1841 [71:01 + 73:04]

Oehms announces this release as the last voyage in its twelve-volume series devoted to Welte rolls played back on the historic Britannic Organ. Previous reviews have covered the technicalities of this, and noted the amount of restorative work necessary to get such good sounding results (Volume 7 ~ Volume 8 ~ Volume 10 ~ Volume 11).

Just how contentious rolls are can be experienced in the very first track, which is an arrangement for organ of the first movement of the Eroica, which was hand-drawn to ‘create’ a performance. Noting in passing the fast tempo – familiar to those who have heard the later shellac discs of such conductors as Henry Wood and Albert Coates – it’s another reason to be somewhat wary of drawing conclusions from piano or organ rolls. That said, there is much enjoyment to be had from this last sailing of the Britannic. Some familiar organists take their bow. Herbert Walton’s somewhat bizarre use of bells jollies up Handel’s Largo – here’s your chance to enjoy Vox Coelestis and Harfe (bell) stops together, to summon up a truly heavenly vista – before Walton summons up requisite British beef to end in swaggering glory. He also plays Basil Harwood’s Dithyramb, a rare piece which survived in a damaged state. It’s a better reflection of Walton’s musical sensitivities. Alfred Sittard made a number of 78s and his Bach playing can be admired, even if the extreme dynamics heard in the Prelude and Fugue, BWV541 are very extreme and likely to have received editing ‘help’. Edwin Lemare goes for broke in his own Bach, his staccato and nasal registrations being the principal features of his Fugue, BWV577.

If you like Mendelssohn’s great Sonata No.6 in D minor, you will enjoy two very different approaches. Eugène Gigout changes colours and disregards some instructions regarding use of the 16’ whilst Lemare drops the little fugue altogether but plays with flair and personalisation. Lemare also plays very stirringly Wagner’s Kaisermarsch. A duo of Goss-Custards appear. The notes are quite critical of Reginald, in the jaunty piece by Percy Fletcher, but much more admiring of his more famous brother Harry who plays Wolstenholme’s rather Elgarian Scherzo in F with great athleticism. It’s intriguing to hear the mystic quietude of Marco Enrico Bossi, four of whose pieces are here. He was the first big-name organist signed by Welte and the only Italian in the company lists, otherwise dominated by performers from Germany, France and Britain. This contemplative music is played with devout reverence by the composer though he digs into Dubois’s In Paradisium, a bizarre piece with harmonium registrations and a surfeit of bells. The light music of the teens and twenties of the century is reflected in Bernard Johnson’s Elfentanz, played by Lemare, and to finish we’re reminded of the skill of Johann Jakob Nater, whose Widor Toccata ends things on a suitably lively high.

As before, and throughout, this series has scored top marks for presentation and background information. The three-language notes, in gatefold form and with splendid photographs and colour reproductions, have lacked for nothing. The Titanic’s sister-ship has been well served in this splendid series.

Jonathan Woolf

Ludwig van BEETHOVEN (1770-1827)
Symphony No. 3 – Eroica: 1st movement [12:57]
Performance devised by Michael Welte (1846-1920)
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Sonata No. 6 in D minor [16:47]
Eugène Gigout (organ)
Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1750)
Xerxes – Largo [6:22]
Herbert Walton (organ)
Basil HARWOOD (1859-1949)
Dithyramb [9:49]
Herbert Walton (organ)
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1750)
Prelude and Fugue in G major, BWV 541 [9:07]
Alfred Sittard (organ)
Fugue, BWV 577 [2:47]
Edwin Lemare (organ)
Georg Frideric HANDEL (1685-1750)
Hercules (March) [4:24]
Alfred Sittard (organ)
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Emperor March [8:50]
Edwin Lemare (organ)
CD 2
Percy FLETCHER (1879-1932)
Festive Toccata in C major [5:08]
Reginald Goss-Custard (organ)
William WOLSTENHOLME) (1865-1931)
Scherzo in F major [5:17]
Harry Goss-Custard (organ)
Edouard SILAS (1827-1909)
Fantasia in D minor [11:15]
Alfred Hollins (organ)
Marco Enrico BOSSI (1861-1925)
Hora mystica [9:57]: Noël, Op.94 No.2 [4:32]: Aria popolare del paese di Ath [4:47]: No.1 Deux Morceaux caracteristiques: Fatemi la grazia. Hear My Plea. Preghiera [5:19]
Marco Enrico Bossi (organ)
Theodore DUBOIS (1837-1924)
12 Pieces nouvelles pour orgue ou piano pedalier: In Paradisum [3:52]
Marco Enrico Bossi (organ)
Bernard BJOHNSON (1868-1935)
Elfentanz [2:46]
Edwin Lemare (organ)
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Sonata No. 6 in D minor [15:18]
Edwin Lemare (organ)
Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844-1937)
Organ Symphony in F: Toccata [4:48]
Johann Jakob Nater (organ)



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