CAPLET: Deux Divertissements. TAILLEFERRE: Harp Sonata. C.P.E. BACH: Sonata in G. HOLLIGER: Präludium. Arioso. Passacaglia. BRITTEN: Suite, Op. 83. (Overture, Toccata, Nocturne, Fugue, Hymn Choral St. Denio).
Sarah O'Brien, harpist
AUDITE SACD 92.561 TT: 64:27
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KARG-ELERT: Choral-Improvisations, Op. 65 Advent/Christmas/Passion
Elke Völker, organist
AEOLUS SACD 10591 TT: 64:52
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TALBOT: Path of Miracles
Tenebrae/Niel Short, cond.
SIGNUM CLASSICS SACD 078 TT: 62:26
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Sarah O'Brien currently is principal harpist of the Munich Philharmonic; earlier she had the same position with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra. Renowned as a master of her instrument, she has a full concert schedule as well as an extensive teaching schedule. Her artistry can be heard on this fine Audite SACD, which contains "a compendium of harp music of very different kinds" but omits the Romantic bloc, the period between Bach and Caplet which O'Brien doesn't find very interesting. Program notes describe in some detail some technical aspects of performing on the instrument. The recordings were made in July 2003 in Stuttgart with Markus Heiland and Ludger Böckenhoff as producers; they did their task beautifully well capturing the rich sounds of the instrument.

German-born Sigfrid Karg-Elert (1877-1933) was best known for his choral and chamber music but he also composed works for piano, organ and harmonium. Supposedly he was influenced by Debussy, Scriabin and Schoenberg, which one would never suspect from what is heard on this Aeolus SACD. This features his large-scale work for organ Choral-Improvisations, Op. 65, 22 fantasies, preludes, postludes, symphonic movements, trios and toccatas for the instrument, dedicated to master organist Alexandre Guilmant. The set is Karg-Elert's first independent set of compositions for the organ, and it reflects the composer's bond with the Lutheran choral tradition. Renowned organist Elke Völker apparently is recording Karg-Elert's "Ultimate Organ Works." This is Volume 5, performances recorded on the E. F. Walcker Organ of San Ignacio de Loyola, San Sebastian. If the repertory interests you, investigate this issue, recorded by producer Christoph Martin Frommen in October 2005. Excdellent sonics.

Path of Miracles is a fascinating release. Jody Talbot (born in London in 1971) has written music about the medieval pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostella. Up to 200,000 people arrive at the gates of Santiago's Cathedral each year to begin their journey, reflected in Talbot's score. The four sections are Roncesvalles, Burgot, Leon and Santiago. The text (included in the CD booklet) is by Robert Dickinson, reflections on the pilgrimage utilizing medieval sources. Scored solely for chorus, Path of Miracles begins with a remarkable upward vocal glissando (a Taiwanese singing effect called pasiputput) and ends as a hymn endlessly is repeated and disappears. The performance is superb in every way, as is recorded sound, which uses the multi-channel system most effectively.

R.E.B. (October 2006)

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