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Dietrich BUXTEHUDE (1637-1707)
Praeludium in G minor, BuxWV149 [9:22]
Jehan ALAIN (1911-1940)
Variations sur un theme de Clément Janequin [6:00]
Max REGER (1873-1916)
Toccata in D minor, Op.129 No.1 [2:49]
Kanon in E minor, Op.129 No.3 [2:31]
Basso ostinato in G minor, Op.129 No.6 [3:11]
Nicolaus BRUHNS (1665-1697)
Chorale Fantasia; Nun komm der Heiden Heiland [11:04]
Johann Sebastian BACH (1685-1705)
Prelude & Fugue in D, BWV532 [11:53]
Nico MUHLY (b.1981)
The Revd. Mustard His Installation Prelude [3:18]
Olivier MESSIAEN (1908-1992)
Dieu parmi nous [9:06]
Amanda Mole (organ)
rec. 2017, Musashino Civic Cultural Hall, Tokyo
NAXOS 8.573912 [59:52]

It is fairly common practice for winners of international organ competitions to be given, as part of their prize, a CD recording session, many of which are subsequently released on the Naxos label in their Laureate Series. The winner of the 2017 International Organ Competition Musashino-Tokyo, Japan, was the American organist Amanda Mole, and just two days after learning that she had won, and a day after giving her winner’s recital she was back on the Musashino Civic Cultural Hall’s Marcussen organ making this recording. The repertory is not wholly of her choice, but comprises some of the required works set out for the various elimination stages of the contest. It is, therefore, perhaps unfair to expect her to be at her best making this recording so soon after the arduous week of competitions, in repertory not necessarily of her own choosing, on an organ over the choice of which she had no say. Little wonder, then, that there is a sense here that she is playing safe.

These are clean, careful, sensible, uncontroversial and immaculately-prepared performances – the sort of thing which competition juries so much enjoy – and set her out as a highly competent practitioner of the organ more than a notably perceptive interpreter of organ music. That said, there is much to enjoy and relish in this hour-long recital, and I am particularly taken by her neat and crisp articulation for the Bach, her nicely-moulded phrases in the Bruhns, and her feeling for the dramatic in the Buxtehude. There are secure if unmemorable performances of standard repertory works by Alain and Messiaen, and it’s not her fault that the Reger pieces seem so turgid; she even managed to inject some life into the Basso ostinato by means of a strong and unwavering sense of continuity through this unrelenting set of variations on a ground bass.

I suspect that Nico Muhly’s The Revd. Mustard His Installation Prelude was her own choice. She certainly seems more at ease in the musical idiom than in the other works on the programme, and although there is an underlying hint of cautiousness in the playing, it has a delightfully lively feel much enhanced by some sensible handling of the instrument’s resources. The title might seem familiar to those for whom the board game Cluedo is an old favourite, but actually Muhly wrote it in 2013 for the installation of the Rector of St Mary the Virgin, East Barnet, whose name was James Mustard. It comprises a continuous flow of right hand notes, slightly shifting in phase as the piece progresses, before eventually simply stopping.

This is not a particularly enthralling or world-shaking recital, but it is a competent and accomplished one, and shows an organist with a fine command both of the instrument and of the repertory being played. The documentation merely comprises Mole’s own programme notes, and we are given no information about the organ or the building. The recording itself is clear if rather bland.

Marc Rochester



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