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The Organ of Cathedral of St. John Evangelist and St. John Baptist of Lublin
Stanisław Maryjewski (organ)
rec. 2020, Cathedral of St John the Evangelist & St John the Baptist, Lublin, Poland ACTE PRÉALABLE AP0477 [76:02]
Stanisław Maryjewski opens this programme of largely heavyweight 19th century pieces with a ponderous and lumbering account of Mendelssohn’s Fifth Sonata. Forget the light-footed, nimble and delicate character we have come to expect from Mendelssohn following those revelatory interpretations of his piano, chamber and orchestral works in the past few decades, here we are thrust right back into the world of stodgy 8 foot organ tone, fat diapasons, minimal mutations and hefty chorus reeds, and playing which emphasises weightiness and substance over delicacy and subtlety. The 2nd movement, with its tripping pedal figure, does not so much dance as plod, while the glittering figurations of the 3rd movement do not so much sparkle as roll along, picking up stops as they go along. But while this is not a performance which reveals any great insights on the music, it does exhibit a magnificently full-bodied organ and a player who is very much in command of the instrument.
As for that instrument, it dates back to 1935 when it was installed in the Cathedral at Lublin by the Polish organ building firm of Homan & Jezierski, It seems that Homan & Jezierski had a reputation for not only ignoring the growing interest in Baroque-style organs, but also for destroying historic instruments in their desire to create large, romantic-style ones, and I read that this instrument was one of their most famous; it was also one of their last – the company ceased to exist in 1938. The cathedral was badly damaged during the Second World War, and in 2020, following a 22-year renovation of the cathedral, the organ itself was renovated by Krzysztof Deszczak, during which, it seems, efforts were made to let the organ speak more vividly into the building. Certainly this recording captures in gloriously robust detail the rich sound of what is a very, very fine example of a Romantic organ.
Stanisław Maryjewski has been organist at Lublin for four years and writes, in his extensive and highly in formative booklet notes, of the sense of urgency he felt in getting the renovated organ recorded as soon as possible. Claiming that “the organ is at its best right after being renovated” (which is not every organist’s experience) he has certainly gone to town in presenting this hefty instrument as a monumental marvel on the Lublin landscape, and it is difficult not to be impressed by some of sounds he conjures from it, not least in Reger’s rambling Dankpsalm where, were there a prize for musical weight, this would surely win hands down; this is not so much an aural as a physical experience.
To sweeten the pill, Maryjewski transforms himself into a cinema organist and the instrument into something not a million miles from a theatrical Wurlitzer for Henry Vincent’s harmless transcription of Gottschalk’s oddly Scottish-flavoured Ballade. As ever Lefébure-Wély brings a touch of the fairground with his jovial Marche, but the organ’s French credentials are found sadly lacking in two movements from two of Widor’s organ symphonies; although there is a beautifully hooting flute for the movement from the Gothic Symphony. Maryjewski’s tortuously slow plod through the Carillon de Westminster rather highlights the paucity of material in music which usually comes across as one of Vierne’s more sparkling toccata movements. Adding some domestic flavour, the programme includes a couple of Polish pieces which might otherwise have remained mired in well-earned obscurity. Surzyński’s Improvisations on the theme of the supplications of ‘Holy God’ (as an English speaker, I feel the title rolls off the tongue more easily in Polish than it does in this English translation) avoids any hint of originality as it wanders around the organ keeping its feet very firmly in the traditional world of serious, churchy organ music. Piotr Grinholc was the recording engineer for this CD, and by way of a thank you, Maryjewski concludes the disc with his Toccata Festiva. It’s firmly in the mould of all those other similarly entitled pieces which show off an organ through a series of festive gestures, and while it rates zero in the originality stakes, it scores full marks for showing off the organ and, notably, the fine quality of the recorded sound.
Felix MENDELSSOHN (1809-1847)
Organ Sonata No.5 in D, Op.6 No.5 [8:37] Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Ave Maria von Arcadelt [5:54] Max REGER (1873-1916)
Dankpsalm, Op.145 No.2 [10:04] Louis GOTTSCHALK (1829-1869)
Ballade, Op.85 No.6 [4:57] Mieczysław SURZYNSKI (1866-1924)
Improwizacje na temat suplikacji Święty Boże, Op.38 [10:53] Louis James Alfred LEFEBURE-WELY (1817-1869)
Marche in E flat [7:54] Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844-1937)
Andante sostenuto from Symphonie Gothique, Op.70 [5:56]
Allegro from Symphony No.6 in G minor, Op.42 No.2 [9:53] Louis VIERNE (1870-1937)
Carillon de Westminster, Op.54 No.6 [7:23] Piotr GRINHOLC (b.1966)
Toccata Festiva [4:25]