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I was reading through the CD reviews in the Sunday Times Culture Supplement when it occurred to me that I couldn't remember reading a review of an organ CD for a long time.

 

Then I wondered when the last time some purely organ music featured on Radio 3's Building A Library.

 

Looking at their database it seemed that it might have been Bach Trio Sonatas, back in 2003, so I e-mailed them and asked if this was so.

 

Almost immediately I got a jolly nice e-mail back saying that there had been some Vierne a few years ago but that if my query was a criticism it was justified and needed rectifying. It said that there's some Messiaen coming up next month but did I have any suggestions as they are putting together the Autumn schedule.

 

Well ... there are many people here more knowledgeable than me. So I thought I'd ask what piece you think would make a good subject for an edition of Building A Library, and which recordings do you think merit inclusion in the considerations.

 

Please DO include your own recordings. If I am going to make the suggestion to Auntie there's no reason for anyone to be modest.

 

Best wishes

 

J

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The three Franck Chorals would be a good one. There must be a fair number of recordings of those to compare.

 

There must be a few versions of Duruflé's complete organ works that are worth comparing. Some are more complete than others and that in itself might be interesting.

 

I don't know what Vierne they did previously, but how about the 6 Symphonies? Not sure how many sets there are in the catalogue at present, but there's van Oosten, Filsell and, I think, Roth.

 

How about the Elgar Sonata? Now that would be interesting.

 

Reubke's Sonata?

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Is the Elgar Sonata really great music? Great organ music, certainly... but in the wider context of Mahler, Poulenc, Monteverdi, Britten, Haydn........

 

Put it this way, I have an extremely musical 'other half' who has spent a good deal of her career in churches, as a chorus member or soloist, and had absolutely no idea the organ was capable of doing things like, say, the 2nd movement of Bach's 1st trio sonata. Personally, if I want to get sceptics interested, I play them things like that.

 

I wouldn't be without:

 

The six trio sonatas of J S Bach plus a smattering of other works, etc etc

 

Quite a bit of Pachelbel, Messiaen, Vierne, etc etc

 

Selected bits/movements of Widor, Daquin, Tomkins, etc etc

 

A good all-over smattering of generally interesting, always brilliantly played repertoire is to be found on the Art of Gillian Weir discs.

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The three Franck Chorals would be a good one. There must be a fair number of recordings of those to compare.

 

There must be a few versions of Duruflé's complete organ works that are worth comparing. Some are more complete than others and that in itself might be interesting.

 

I don't know what Vierne they did previously, but how about the 6 Symphonies? Not sure how many sets there are in the catalogue at present, but there's van Oosten, Filsell and, I think, Roth.

 

How about the Elgar Sonata? Now that would be interesting.

 

Reubke's Sonata?

Thank you Vox, for saving me the trouble of writing out my list. You must be a mind reader! I think these are good suggestions, but would it be necessary perhaps to concentrate on one Franck Choral? There are certainly plenty of recordings old and new. Similarly with the Vierne Symphonies, plenty of recordings to choose from, but perhaps it would be best to analyse different performances of one Symphony. I'd add Latry, Sanger and the inimitable Cochereau to your list, not forgetting the recent BBC issue by David Briggs.

 

Duruflé would be interesting, but Graeme Kay did compare a couple of versions in one of the CD review programmes last summer (Though he didn't include my favourites)

 

I don't know how many recordings of the Elgar are out there, I have two - Herbert Sumsion and Thomas Trotter - but I can't think of others just now. Similarly I can't think of many recordings of the Reubke, but it would be interesting to compare Roger Fisher's 1970s recording with his recent one for Amphion.

 

JC

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A good all-over smattering of generally interesting, always brilliantly played repertoire is to be found on the Art of Gillian Weir discs.

Yes, but Building a Library is generally about comparing different performances of the same piece rather than surveying a particular performer's output, is it not?

 

Agree totally about the Bach Trio Sonatas - they don't come better than that - but they've already been done (albeit 5 years ago).

 

Sticking with Bach, there's Clavierübung IV (nearly all first rate stuff) or the Orgelbüchlein. I think I would probably steer clear of "The Eighteen", fine though they are.

 

Edit: Buxtehude! Could be both interesting and instructive to compare different players' approaches to his organ music.

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The three Franck Chorals would be a good one. There must be a fair number of recordings of those to compare.

 

There must be a few versions of Duruflé's complete organ works that are worth comparing. Some are more complete than others and that in itself might be interesting.

 

I don't know what Vierne they did previously, but how about the 6 Symphonies? Not sure how many sets there are in the catalogue at present, but there's van Oosten, Filsell and, I think, Roth.

 

How about the Elgar Sonata? Now that would be interesting.

 

Reubke's Sonata?

 

The available recordings of Duruflé's complete organ works were reviewed in May 2006. Looking back at least ten years ago, the complete organ works of Vierne were featured in April 1997 when Ben van Oosten's recording of all six symphonies were then considered the best available, and the Franck Chorals were featured in June 1996. Details of these Building a Library recommendations are all available online.

 

I am pleased to see that a survey of Messiaen is coming up soon. In this his centenary year, an examination of the best version of his [complete?] organ works is long overdue. Am I correct in saying that BBC Music Magazine gives details of works to be featured in BaL? If so, is there a date and details of the forthcoming Messiaen review?

 

Key works in any organ lover's library could include:-

 

Bach's organ works (last looked at in, I think, the early nineties);

 

the Widor symphonies (the late Felix Aprahamian wrote of Chorzempa's readings of No. 5 and 10 from St Sernin, Toulouse, "It still strikes me as near exemplary on all counts: the organ, recording and playing. ... I would not look elsewhere for a better realization of either work.")

 

Reubke's The 94th Psalm;

 

Buxtehude's complete organ works.

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I don't know how many recordings of the Elgar are out there, I have two - Herbert Sumsion and Thomas Trotter - but I can't think of others just now.

Toru Ohbayashi, an ardent Japanese Elgarist, has built a web page which lists many recordings; he is aiming at a complete list. Thomas Trotter's recent one, recorded at Salisbury and fine as ever, isn't there yet.

 

Also not included: Stephen Cleobury's 1984 recording from King's that was reissued by Priory last year. A review copy of that one came in last Saturday, and I must say that I am impressed. Very distinguished playing, and an exciting sound from the H&H as it was back then. Mr. Cleobury treats the piece, and the organ, with a sense of weight and orchestral sound masses that offers a nice change from many overly-slim and effortless recordings of more recent origin.

 

My favourite Reubke, after having heard many a recording indeed, is Christopher Herrick's at Reykjavik. Very sensitive playing, a thoroughly sensible mind map, restraint and fire, respectively, in just the right places. Christopher Herrick does have a Midas touch when it comes to the Big Ones -- his "Commotio" recording from Turku is the best I have heard as yet. Restraint, again, is the key.

 

His Elgar, from Wellington (NZ), of course, is very fine as well.

 

Best,

Friedrich

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I am pleased to see that a survey of Messiaen is coming up soon. In this his centenary year, an examination of the best version of his [complete?] organ works is long overdue. Am I correct in saying that BBC Music Magazine gives details of works to be featured in BaL? If so, is there a date and details of the forthcoming Messiaen review?

I am able to answer my own question. According to BBC Music Magazine, Messiaen's La Nativité du Seigneur is the subject of Building a Library on 31 May.

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I don't know how many recordings of the Elgar are out there, I have two - Herbert Sumsion and Thomas Trotter - but I can't think of others just now. Similarly I can't think of many recordings of the Reubke, but it would be interesting to compare Roger Fisher's 1970s recording with his recent one for Amphion.

 

JC

 

Both the Reubke and the Liszt Ad Nos each exceed 50 recordings in the last 40 years, while the Elgar Sonata must have at least 30. Off the top of my head and without checking sources in addition to the two mentioned there are:-

Roger Fisher - Chester Cathedral

Donald Hunt & Christopher Robinson - both Worcester Cathedral

John Robinson - Carlisle Cathedral

Christopher Stokes - Manchester Cathedral

James Lancelot - Durham cathedral (CD & DVD)

Hubert Best - Birmingham Cathedral

John Scott - St Paul's

Andrew Lumsden - Lichfield cathedral

Christopher Herrick (Twice) - Westminster Abbey and Wellington Town Hall

Jennifer Bate - Royal Albert Hall

Carlo Curley - St Mary Redcliffe

Keith John - Temple Church

Stephen Cleobury and John Butt - both King's College Cambridge

Simon Preston - Colston Hall, Bristol

Catherine Ennis - Munster Cathedral

Nicholas Kynaston - Ingolstadt Munster

Frank Davis - Holbrook School Chapel

Alastair Sampson - Eton College Chapel.

Gareth Green - Chesterfield Parish Church ???

 

There are also recordings by Wolfgang Rubsam and Tom Murray of which I do not have the details to hand and I am aware of a couple of others but I would need to refresh my memory, one of which was at Coventry cathedral , possibly with Christopher Bowers-Broadbent.

 

Will that do to be going on with ??

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Will that do to be going on with ??

Thank you Brian. Now you have reminded me, I do remember some of these, including one I dislike intensely! But I'm not sure whether they are all currently available on CD. Whatever people think about the Elgar, it would be interesting to compare different performances. In my opinion, a far more interesting exercise than the Messiaen, in which the style is so tightly specified by the composer and in some cases, the recordings made in his presence.

JC

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I don't know how many recordings of the Elgar are out there, I have two - Herbert Sumsion and Thomas Trotter - but I can't think of others just now. Similarly I can't think of many recordings of the Reubke, but it would be interesting to compare Roger Fisher's 1970s recording with his recent one for Amphion.

I think Building a Library only compares currently available versions though, doesn't it?

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Yes, come to think of it, you are right.

JC

 

While I am sure that you are both correct , it seems to me that in the era of e-bay and Amazon what is truly "available" is actually rather more than what is in the current catalogue. Quite apart from the service which Priory run of providing a custom made copy of any CD that has ever been in their catalogue , so all their material is "available" it is possible to use the Web both to find what people have for sale second hand and to indicate an interest in acquiring something. Of course the prices may be prohibitive but that is a different issue. So I think there is a plausible case now for including in any such review at least outstanding performances from the past (I am not going in to how you define "outstanding" - but as working definition subject to wide critical aclaim at the time might serve) so that those interested could snap up any they happened to come across or could persuade others to dig out of the attic. I wonder how many members here have LPs which they no longer play - and may even no longer have the equipment to play - which they would happily exchange for ready cash were it to be offered ??

 

BAC

 

PS. Paul-Martin Maki at McMurray College, Illinois and that makes 30 !

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Both the Reubke and the Liszt Ad Nos each exceed 50 recordings in the last 40 years, while the Elgar Sonata must have at least 30. Off the top of my head and without checking sources in addition to the two mentioned there are:-

[snip]

Will that do to be going on with ??

Simon Preston - Westminster Abbey 1960s and 1985 (Reubke)

 

Celebrating his 70th birthday this August with two Proms appearances...

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I don't know how many recordings of the Elgar are out there, I have two - Herbert Sumsion and Thomas Trotter - but I can't think of others just now. JC

 

May I put in an enthusiastic endorsement for the DVD 'symposium' on the Elgar Sonata recently issued by St Chad's College and the Elgar Foundation - quite the best educational DVD I've come across to date. James Lancelot's performance on the Durham Cathedral organ is magnificent with masterful management of the instrument (without a sequencer), and even turning his own pages. He also gives a short masterclass on some of the more difficult passages, with advice on registration, ingenious thumbings down and even reversing L & R hands at one point.

 

He also makes a most articulate and intelligent contribution to an extended disourse with Relf Clarke and Prof Jeremy Dibble on the origins of the Sonata, its structure and place in the repertoire etc. They also explore wider topics such as 'Elgar's Englishness' - all fascinating stuff.

 

Also included is a visit to the H&H workshops with commentary by Mark Venning, a voicing demo by Peter Hopps and a short presentation of the resources of the Cathedral organ, again by James Lancelot.

 

Finally, members of staff at the Elgar Birthplace give a talk, illustrated with museum artifacts, on the composer's upbringing and musical development, providing remarkable insights into Elgar's complex personality.

 

Available from the Elgar Foundation Ltd and very worthwhile at £19.99.

 

JS

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Just remembered a couple more:

 

Arturo Sacchetti in his Organ History Series - this one called "Elgar to Arnell " and

Daniel Matrone - at Saint-Sever - Elgar with a French accent.

 

Brian Childs

 

Just found one of Roger Fisher playing the Elgar AND the Reubke on the same CD. Is this is first? It's here.

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