VIERNE: Symphony No. 1 in D minor, Op 14. Symphony No. 2 in E minor, Op. 20."
Hans-Eberhard Ross, organ
AUDITE SACD 92.674 TT: 65:50
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Music of PRIULI, VALENTINI, EBNER, FROBERGER, KAISER LEOPOLD I, KERLL, TECHELMANN and anonymous composers.
David Blunden and Johannes Strobl; Bossart Organs of the Abbey Church of Muri
AUDITE SACD 92.653 TT: 72:36
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SZYMANOWSKI: Concert Overture, Op. 12. Symphony No. 4, Op. 60 "Symphonie Concertante." Symphony No. 2, Op. 19.
Louis Lortie, piano; BBC Symphony Orch/Edward Gardner, cond.
CHANDOS SACD CHSA 5115 TT: 70:57
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The enterprising Audite label has issued the first disk in a series of three that will contain all six organ symphonies by Louis Vierne (1870-1937) who was a major figure on the French music scene. He studied with César Franck, Charles-Marie Widor and Alexandre Guilmant and composed profusely, not only for his favored instrument, but for chamber ensembles and vocalists as well..Vierne was organist at Notre-Dame Cathedral for almost four decades.He had a fatal heart attack during what was planned as his final recital there June 2, 1937. Vierne's achievements were monumental, particularly when one consideres that he was virtually blind since birth. Another composer of the time, Charles-Marie Widor (1884-1937) wrote about a dozen symphonies for organ, Vierne composed only 6. Widor's perhaps accent virtuoso playing more than those by Vierne—the Toccata finale from Widor's Symphony No. 5 is one of the best-known showpieces for organ. However, Vierne's organ symphonies are large-scale works exploring sonorities of a large organ, The first has a light-textured Allegro vivace as the fourth of its six movements, Symphony No. 2 has a scherzo for the third of its five movements, and each symphony has a big-scale finale. These are beautifully played by Hans-Eberhard Ross on the huge Goll Organ of St. Martin, Memmingen. The massive sound of the instrument has been wonderfully captured by the engineers, with thundering bass and crystalline highs. The many pastoral interludes are exquisite. Should the repertory interest you, you won't be disappointed.

Another Audite issue offers music for two organs by the composers listed above performed by David Blunden and Johannes Strobl playing on Bossart Organs of the Abby Church of Mur, a venue founded by forefathers of the Habsburgs. This SACD features Viennese music of the 17th century along with music from the Baroque period. If you'd like to go back more than three centures to hear music as it sounded at the time, here it is. These recordings were made July 29-31, 2011, and engineers have captured very well the placement of the organs in the church with splendid antiphonal effect. Excellent surround sound throughout, and highly entertaining. Recommended!

Chandos continues their series of orchestral music of Karol Szymanowski with this fifth SACD offering the Concert Overture and Symphonies 2 and 4. A recording of Symphony No. 2 on DVD Audio with the Warsaw Philharmonic conducted by Antoni Wit has been mentioned on this site (REVIEW), and another recording with Leon Bostein and the London Philharmonic also was covered more than a decade ago (REVIEW). About two years ago this site mentioned a DVD of Symphony No. 4 in a brilliant performance featuring pianist Jan Krzystof with Antoni Wit and the Warsaw Philharmonic (REVIEW). Symphony No. 4 is also known as Symphonie Concertante, as it is scored for piano and orchestra—although the piano is treated as a part of the orchestra. It seems rather odd, but Arthur Rubinstein championed this and recorded it in 1952. The DVD performance is spectacular, and this new one with Louis Lortie at the keyboard is equally fine—with engineering that does not make the piano overly prominent, which is what Szymanowski intended. This new recording of both symphonies maintains high standards set by the previous four disks, and audio is what one has come to expect from Chandos.

R.E.B. (February 2013)

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