WIDOR: Symphony No. 3 for Organ and Orchestra, Op. 69. Symphony No. 7 for Solo Organ, Op. 42 No. 3.
Christian Schmitt, organ; Bamberg State Orch/Stefan Solyom, cond.
CPO SACD 777 678 TT: 73:04
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PRAETORIUS: Complete Magnificat Compositions and other works for organ
Friedhelm Flamme, organ
CPO SACD 777 345 (2 disks) TT: 135:45
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BUXTEHUDE: Prelude in E WV 141. Prelude in F sharp minor WV 146. SALLINEN: Chaconne per organo, Op. 23. HÄMEENNIEMI: Passacaglia. J. C. BACH: Prelude and Fugue in A, BWV 536. Orelude and Fugue in A minor, BWV 543. KAIPAINEN: Reunion Confirmed (Passacaglia for Organ) Op. 71.
Kari Vuola, organ
ALBA SACD ABCD 343 TTP 58:47
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Charles-Marie Widor (1844-1937) was a major figure on the French musical scene for more than six decades, renowned as a composer and teacher as well as an organ virtuoso; his students included Darius Milhaud, Albert Schweitzer, Marcel Dupré and Edgard Varèse. Suggested by Saint-Saëns and Gounod, he was appointed organist of Saint-Sulpice in Paris which had a magnificent instrument. Widor wrote ten symphonies for solo organ and many other "symphonies" for organ, piano, other instruments and orchestra, one of which is featured on this superb new disk: Symphony No. 3 for Organ and Orchestra. In this six-movement half-hour work, and the influence of Wagner, whom Widor admired, is evident in leitmotifs heard throughout the work. This is new approach in Widor's symphonies, resulting in a showpiece for organ and orchestra that deserves to be heard in concert halls. It certainly impresses in this splendid recording that vividly captures huge organ and orchestral sounds. Symphony No. 3 for solo organ, written in 1887, is a massive five-movement 43 minute, mostly somber and sedate, even the fourth movement marked Allegro ma non troppo, which hardly fits that description. But the finale is grand indeed. Christian Schmitt is a first-class organist, and the engineering staff has magnificently captured rich sounds of the Cavaillé-Coll Organ of Abteikkirche, St. Quen.

The German composer Hieronymus Praetorious (1560-1629) was also know as an organist and writer. During the same period, Michael Praetorious (1571-1621), not related to Hieronymus, was far better known, and he focused on music of the church. Hieronymuys wrote much music for organ, including masses, motets and vocal Magnificat settings. These two well-filled SACDs contain all of Heironymous's Magnificat compositions as well as other miscellaneous works for organ. They are played by Friedhelm Flamme, who already has made a dozen fine recordings of varied repertory for cpo. The instrument is the ancient (1624) Scherer organ of St. Stephanskirche zu Tangermünde, which has now been restored to its original state. It does not produce a large sound, but probably is what the composer wanted. Engineering takes us right inside the church, but don't expect large masses of organ sound. I cannot imagine anyone wanting to listen to 136 minutes of this music at one sitting.

"Contrasts" is the title given to the new Alba SACD featuring Kari Vuola playing the Organ of the Naantali Convent Church in Finland. Works of Buxtehude and Bach are separated by contemporary works by Aulis Sallinen, Jouni Kaipainen, and Olli Kortekangasm all of which are slow and dissonant—contrasting indeed. Performances are expert—the young Finnish organist plays expertly, and the instrument/s modest sound has been well-captured by Alba's engineers.

R.E.B. (September 2012)

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