Romantic & Virtuoso Organ Works Vol 3 / Parker-Smith

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Parker-Smith's reputation has been based on her love of big romantic sounds and her ability to manage them, and this CD is no exception -...
Parker-Smith's reputation has been based on her love of big romantic sounds and her ability to manage them, and this CD is no exception - an interesting program, excellently performed and recorded.

Jane Parker-Smith’s earlier recordings in this series have been generally well-received: Volume 1 on AV0034 – see review and review; Volume 2 on AV2144 – see review. On this new recording, as on the earlier volumes, she performs an interesting mix of the fairly familiar and the unfamiliar, from the English, French, German and other European traditions, this time on the organ of St Gudula in Rhede, a fine modern instrument, with full specification and illustrations included in the excellent booklet.

I hadn’t encountered Wiedermann (tr.1), Landmann (tr.2) or Gárdonyi (tr.6) before, but I’m pleased to have heard their music on this CD. The Landmann Variations on a Theme of Handel (tr.2), a demanding piece which brings out the glories of the organ to fine effect, deserve to be part of the regular repertoire. At 15:36, this is the longest item here, but it never outstays its welcome. The Bairstow (tr.3) and Parry (tr.4), on the other hand, are staple fare, at any rate for Anglophone organists; though we tend to associate such music with the Willis style of organ, they, too, suit the versatile Rhede organ.

Zsolt Gárdonyi’s Grand Chœur (tr.6) is a particularly interesting work; it might well have come from the pen of Widor or Vierne, by which I don’t mean to imply that it sounds derivative – in fact, it’s an impressive piece which also deserves to be part of the repertoire, though it’s surprising to hear a contemporary composer writing in a comparatively old-fashioned idiom.

I’m never sure why organists feel the need to perform transcriptions of orchestral music when there is such a wide and varied repertoire for their instrument, so I could have done without the Liszt Orpheus (tr.5) in favour of another piece from the English or French tradition. Oddly enough, in this transcription by Jean Guillou the opening of the music sounds like an original organ piece by Guillou himself or early Messiaen, so the track proves to be not as unwelcome as I had imagined, especially as Parker-Smith gets some lovely growly sounds out of the organ. By the end of the work I was even beginning to prefer this transcription to the original.

The Cochereau transcription (tr.8), on the other hand, is very well worth having: this is not a transcription of an orchestral piece but a very effective realisation by Jeremy Filsell from Cochereau’s own improvised 1974 recording of his Scherzo symphonique. Not for nothing was Cochereau dubbed the organist’s organist and this piece rounds off the recital very effectively.

Parker-Smith’s performances throughout are thoroughly idiomatic and the recording captures the full range of the organ very well. As early as her first recording, aged 23 (for Music for Pleasure on the Westminster Cathedral Organ, an LP which sold for 71p!) her reputation has been based on her love of big romantic sounds and her ability to manage them, and the new CD is no exception. She’s recorded for several labels since then, notably recently for Avie; I must catch up with the earlier Avie volumes which I missed. Her reputation alone will probably sell this new recording; those who buy it on the strength of that reputation will not be disappointed.

I’ve been very impressed with a number of recent Avie issues, notably Trevor Pinnock’s Brandenburgs (AV2119 – see review and review, and my survey of Bach Downloads) and Imogen Cooper’s Mozart (Piano Concertos 24 and 25, AV2175 – see review and my March, 2009, Download Roundup); this new organ recital joins their ranks.

This is an interesting programme, excellently performed and recorded and well presented, as were the earlier volumes. At 77:04, the CD is well filled, too.

-- Brian Wilson, MusicWeb International


Product Description:


  • Release Date: February 01, 2009


  • UPC: 822252216523


  • Catalog Number: AV2165


  • Label: AVIE Records


  • Number of Discs: 1


  • Composer: Arno Landmann, Bedrich Wiedermann, Camille Saint-Saëns, Edward Bairstow, Franz Liszt, Jeremy Filsell, Zsolt Gárdonyi


  • Performer: Jane Parker-Smith