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Gioachino ROSSINI (1792-1868)
Overture to William Tell (transcribed by Dudley Buck) [14:14]
Dudley BUCK (1839-1909)
Concert Variations on The Star-spangled Banner Op. 23 [12:41]
Horatio PARKER (1863-1919)
Revery Op. 66 No. 2 [6:07]
Charles IVES (1874-1954)
Variations on America [9:58]
Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)
Fire Magic (transcribed for organ by James H. Rogers); George GERSHWIN (1898-1937)
Rhapsody in Blue (transcribed by Rudolf Innig) [19:12]
Rudolf Innig (organ)
rec. Methuen Memorial Music Hall, Boston, USA, 14-15 October 2012

Richard WAGNER (1813-1883)

Transcribed by Edwin Lemare
Overture to Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg [10:45]
Pilgrims’ Chorus from Tannhäuser [6:01]
Prelude and Liebestod from Tristan und Isolde [19:21]
Prelude to Act 1 of Lohengrin [9:51]
Prelude to Act III and Bridal Music from Lohengrin [9:54]
Siegfried’s Funeral March from Götterdämmerung [9:39]
Magic Fire Music from Die Walküre [3:40]
The Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walküre [5:29]
Jonathan Vaughn (organ)
rec. St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol, 5-6 March 2012
REGENT REGCD394 [74:40]

Although most pianists have from time to time to accept whatever instrument is available for them to play on, organists are even more the victims or beneficiaries of whatever instrument they are given to play. Unsurprisingly this leads to a fascination amongst organists and those interested in the instrument with the history and specification of particular organs. Those with such a fascination will be amply rewarded with the information given with both of these discs. Both have lengthy histories and specifications of the instruments used; indeed the MDG disc goes further by listing in full the registrations used for each section of each item.
The organ now in the Methuen Music Memorial Hall was originally installed in the Boston Music Hall in 1863 when it became the largest organ in the United States. The original builder was Friedrich Walcker of Ludwigsburg but it was later removed from Boston and twice renovated. The present instrument as heard on this disc clearly has great presence and character although it has to be admitted that as heard here the sounds it produces are by no means all pleasant. The recording is forward and the range of volume is enormous. This is a disc that unless you have very understanding neighbours you may well prefer to hear through headphones.
The organ of St Mary Redcliffe was built in 1911 by Harrison and Harrison, incorporating some earlier pipes. It too has been altered over time, the last major rebuild being completed by the original firm of builders in 2010. As recorded here, also with a wide dynamic range but on the whole less of a problem for listening through loudspeakers, it is a splendid example of an English instrument of its time, ideal for the contents of this disc.
Both CDs contain transcriptions, the Regent disc consisting entirely of transcriptions of extracts from the music of Wagner by Edwin Lemare (1866-1934). These were intended for concert performance, partly as a way of popularising works which the wider public of the time, in particular in the United States where he spent his latter years, would be unlikely to hear in their original form. They are astonishingly imaginative in their rethinking of orchestral sonorities in terms of an instrument with wholly different characteristics. I found listening to this disc enthralling from start to finish, and marvelled at Lemare’s respect for the essential character of the originals. Jonathan Vaughn plays with panache and sensitivity and is recorded with great clarity and realism.
Rudolf Innig’s disc also contains transcriptions as well as three original organ pieces. It is the latter that are the most convincing items, with the Buck and Parker works, conservative but well written, finest of all. The early Ives Variations are probably best known today in Walter Piston’s orchestral version but can sound even better on their intended instrument. Perhaps that used by Innig is simply too big for its purpose, but as heard here the imaginative iconoclasm and sheer wildness that other organists have found in the work is missing. For much of the time it simply sounds odd. The transcriptions here are even more unconvincing. The Rossini, and especially the final galop, is wanting in rhythmic thrust and the Wagner lacks the clarity needed to prevent it sounding static. I cannot understand what the player intended to achieve with his transcription of the Gershwin. It sounds unconvincing from start to finish, and the registrations chosen all too often result in an unpleasant and even chaotic sound. Innig’s technique is never in doubt but the result lacks conviction.
Both discs are extremely well presented, with very full notes on the music as well as the instrument and player, and both are well recorded and well filled. However of the two it is the Jonathan Vaughn disc of Wagner which is the better demonstration of the art of the arranger. That by Rudolf Innig by contrast sent me straight back to the originals and I am doubtful as to whether the disc would be worth having solely for the featured handful of works written for organ.  

John Sheppard