One of the most grown-up review sites around

Search MusicWeb Here
Google seem to have closed down local search engines. You can use this FreeFind engine but it is not so comprehensive
     
  
You can go to Google itself and enter the search term www.musicweb-international.com followed by the search term.
 

 

International mailing


  Founder: Len Mullenger             Senior Editor: John Quinn               Contact Seen and Heard here  

Some items
to consider


Piano Concertos 1 and 2
Surprise Best Seller and now
RECORDING OF THE MONTH


ABRAHAMSEN Quartets


DIETHELM Symphonies


The best Rite of Spring in Years


BACH Magnificat


Brian Symphs 8, 21, 26


Just enjoy it!


.
La Mer Ticciati

Eriks EŠENVALDS

Detlev GLANERT

Jaw-dropping

simply marvellous

Outstanding music

Elite treatment

some joyous Gershwin


Bartok String Quartets
uniquely sensitive


Cantatas for Soprano

 


Support us financially by purchasing this from

Variations on America – Organ Spectacular
John Philip SOUSA (1854-1932)
The Stars and Stripes Forever (1896) [4:04]
Camille SAINT-SAňNS (1835-1921)
Danse macabre, Op 40 (1874) (transcr Lemare) [8:31]
Charles IVES (1874-1954)
Variations on America (1891) [9:24]
Dudley BUCK (1839-1909)
The Last Rose of Summer, Op 59 (1877) [12:21]
Enrico BOSSI (1861-1925)
…tude symphonique, Op 78 (1897) [5:00]
Edwin Henry LEMARE (1865-1934)
Andantino in D flat major ‘Moonlight and Roses’(1888) [4:28]
Alexandre GUILMANT (1837-1911)
Organ Sonata No 1 in D minor, Op 42 (1875) [22:25]
Simon Preston (organ)
rec 1988, Methuen Memorial Music Hall, Boston, USA
ELOQUENCE 482 8101 [66:32]

This ‘spectacular’ recital first appeared in the original set of releases in Decca’s 1990 relaunch of its Argo imprint. The re-emergence of this legendary name came with a bold mission statement included in each booklet: “Argo seeks to explore music in four specific areas- choral, organ, British and American.” At a stroke the present disc fulfilled three quarters of that remit. Its reappearance now on Australian Eloquence addresses in part another aim – to restore to currency all of the organ recordings made by Simon Preston for Argo between 1963 and 1990. In fact ‘Variations on America’ is unique among these reissues as it’s the only real example from Preston of a ‘Showpiece’ recital, that is a concert of virtuosic and entertaining organ works designed to show off a particular instrument, in this case the amazing organ of the Methuen Memorial Concert Hall in Boston. So the repertoire here inevitably veers away from the more ‘serious’ fare Preston recorded in the 1960s and 1970s. if one’s sensibilities can withstand some of the rather ‘schmaltzy’ items here, the hour spent with this disc is well spent.

Like many such instruments, the Boston organ has an engaging history which is entertainingly retold by Edward J Sampson in the booklet note. It was initially commissioned by the president of the Boston Music Hall Association, one Jabez Baxter Upham, in 1857; his intention being that America’s first concert organ would be erected in his city. The builder entrusted with the contract was the German Wackler company. The construction was delayed however by a combination of contrary circumstances which included the disappearance of the contract and the start of the American Civil War! Even when the huge instrument was completed, its transportation to the New World proved anything but straightforward and it wasn’t until late 1863 that ‘The Great Organ’ was finally inaugurated. It quickly became the focus of local musical activity although that state of affairs was short-lived- the foundation of the Boston Symphony Orchestra in 1881 presaged a swift reduction in its stature before it was ultimately removed and placed in storage in 1884. Years later it was bought at auction by a local scion and a grand concert hall was built to house it in Methuen, MA. The instrument was comprehensively modernised in the 1940s by the Aeolian-Skinner company.

It was certainly a canny choice by Argo for this album. The Decca engineers certainly did it justice 30 years ago and it sounds as fresh and spectacular today as it did on its day of release. Inevitably with such a grand instrument there are clearly huge colouristic choices available to organists and Simon Preston takes full advantage of these in a programme clearly designed to show it off to the max. So what of the music and the playing?

The ‘lollipops’ selected invariably display satisfying and generally pretty tasteful quasi- orchestral effects. This is especially true in Edwin Lemare’s dazzling transcription of Saint-SaŽns ubiquitous Danse Macabre, while Preston’s engaging delivery of Sousa’s Stars and Stripes Forever at times hints at the sound of the fairground while judiciously avoiding anything approaching true vulgarity. There are two examples of the kind of ‘schmaltz’ that would have been familiar to and enjoyed by American audiences towards the end of the nineteenth century; Dudley Buck was very much the local Boston organ ‘hero’, his Variations on the ‘Last Rose of Summer’ is technically well-formed, ultimately over-long and certainly rather saccharine, a criticism which can equally be applied to Lemare’s own Andantino. Preston does his best to breathe life into both, the pastel shades of these sepia-tinted period pieces are certainly fully projected.

Charles Ives’ very different set of Variations lends its name to the disc. These teenage experiments are splendidly performed and recorded; they emerge excitingly from the speakers; goodness knows how his 1890s audience would have reacted !

The one extended ‘serious’ work on the programme, Guilmant’s First Sonata receives a towering performance from Preston. Its finale may be less well known than Widor’s famous Toccata but it is equally thrilling and is brilliantly captured here. It ends the recital on an appropriately uplifting note.

And thus the disc can be warmly recommended to those who wish to hear this superb instrument, faithfully caught by the engineers in its natural context. It also offers a snapshot of Simon Preston’s considerable artistry in lighter fare. It is thus a desirable appendix to the other Preston discs (of arguably meatier repertoire) Eloquence have recently reissued to celebrate his 80th birthday in 2018.

Richard Hanlon

 

 




Gerard Hoffnung CDs

Advertising on
Musicweb



Donate and get a free CD

 

New Releases

Naxos Classical


Nimbus Podcast


Special offer 50% off

Musicweb sells the following labels
Acte Préalable
(THE Polish label)
Altus 10% off
Atoll 10% off
CRD 10% off
Hallé 10% off
Lyrita 10% off
Nimbus 10% off
Nimbus Alliance
Prima voce 10% off
Red Priest 10% off
Retrospective 10% off
Saydisc 10% off
Sterling 10% off


Follow us on Twitter

Subscribe to our free weekly review listing
sample

Sample: See what you will get

Editorial Board
MusicWeb International
Founding Editor
   
Rob Barnett
Senior Editor
John Quinn
Seen & Heard
Editor Emeritus
   Bill Kenny
Editor in Chief
   Vacant
MusicWeb Webmaster
   David Barker
MusicWeb Founder
   Len Mullenger