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Fernando Germani at Selby Abbey
Girolamo FRESCOBALDI (1583-1643)
Toccata I (T.1) [4:21]
Canzona IV (T.2) [3:54]
Toccata V (T.2) [3:34]
Capriccio Pastorale (T.1) [3:27]
César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Chorale No.1 in E major (1890) [14:40]
Chorale No.3 in A minor (1890) [14:43]
Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Prelude and Fugue on B.A.C.H. S260 (1855 rev 1870) [13:26]
Max REGER (1873-1916)
Chorale Fantasia; Fantasia on the chorale Halleluja! Gott zu Loben Op.52 (1900) [13:17]
Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844-1937)
Symphony No.5 in F minor, Op.42 No.1 - Toccata Op.42/1 (1880) [5:07]
Fernando Germani (organ)
rec. 1961-64, organ at Selby Abbey
SELBY SAOA001 [71:56]

Fernando Germani (1906-1998) began to record for HMV in 1947. There followed a series of discs, first on 78 and then on LP successively mono and stereo. Much of the repertoire was centred on Bach but in 1961 the Italian organist ventured to Selby Abbey in Yorkshire to record a tranche of romantic repertoire. The success of this disc - it was on HMV’s best-seller list in 1962 - led to two repeat visits to the abbey. The second disc featured the music of Franck and the third Italian baroque music. These details are all helpfully provided in David Gammie’s introductory page in the booklet, which also reprints a 1998 article by Nicholas Kynaston published in Organists’ Review.
The fruits of those recording labours, culled - or perhaps better, distilled - from all three LPs have now been digitally re-mastered and released to support the Abbey’s organ appeal, for which funds are urgently needed. The 1909 organ, on which Germani recorded, is now in a parlous state and desperately needs restoration.
On that final LP were the four Frescobaldi pieces, with which this Selby disc opens. Fears that Frescobaldi on a twentieth-century English instrument played in a rich-toned and tightly recorded way might emerge over-romanticised are not wholly met. True, the sound is spotlit and that doesn’t suit the second of the Toccatas in particular, which nowadays would be taken with a greater sense of delicacy. Germani certainly suited the instrument to the work in that respect, lavishing great grandeur on the Canzona IV whilst the Capriccio Pastorale is delicately contoured and suitably relaxed. There is a further link between performer and composer: Frescobaldi was one of Germani’s predecessors at St. Peter’s in Rome and the organist published modern editions of Frescobaldi’s organ music, never ceasing to admire him.
Both the Franck Chorales exude taut grandeur of utterance, but also a real sense of refinement. A modern master of this repertoire, such as Wolfgang Rübsam, is significantly slower in the case of the E major Chorale and the differences between the two performances only serve to identify the latitude that organists can find in this music. Both here and in the case of the Liszt and Reger pieces we hear an Italian playing a modern English instrument. The results never sound dichotomous or inauthentic. The Liszt Prelude and Fugue on BACH reinforces Germani’s technical strengths as well as his sympathy to the idiom. Similarly in the case of the Reger’s Fantasia on the chorale Halleluja! Gott zu Loben which receives a performance solemn and virtuosic, heroic but controlled. Finally there is Germani’s tremendous performance of Widor’s Toccata, a recording that must have made some organists want to give up.
In addition to the various notes, the booklet itself is sumptuously produced and contains much helpful information.
Jonathan Woolf