Johann Sebastian Bach: Meine Seele erhebt den Herren (Fuga fuga sopra il Magnificat) BWV 733 – Chorale “Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier” BWV 373 – Chorale Prelude “Liebster Jesu, wir sind hier” BWV 731 – Trio Sonata 4 in E minor BWV 528 – Chorale “Erbarm dich mein, O Herre Gott” BWV 305 – Chorale Prelude “Erbarm dich mein, O Herre Gott” BWV 721
Dietrich Buxtehude: Prelude and Fugue in G minor – Chorale “Jesu, mein Freude”
Johann Gottfried Walther: Partita with 10 variations on “Jesu, meine Freude”
Michel Corrette: First and second Magnificat Suites: “Plein Jeu”, “Tierce en Taille”, “Duo à deux Basses”, “Concert de flûtes”, “Fuga doppia”
Felix Mendelssohn: Prelude and Fugue in C minor
Gabriel Pierné: Prelude in E flat major
Jehan Alain: Choral dorien
Alexandre Pierre François Boëly: Fantaisie et fugue in B flat major
Jacob Lawrence (treble), Meredith Cox (alto), Loclan McKenzie-Spencer (tenor), Thomas Drent (bass), The Scots’ Church Melbourne Rieger Organ, Douglas Lawrence (organist)
Recorded at The Scots’ Church Melbourne (2010) – 72’
Move Records #MD 3340 - Booklet in English
This is the second such recording to feature the recently built Rieger Organ in The Scot’s Church in Melbourne, Australia and after hearing it, I am absolutely going to seek out the first.
This well-conceived program shows off the versatility and character of this remarkable instrument. The first set rightly features the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, and, in a unique twist, features two chorale preludes following their respective chorales. The chorales are simply and effectively sung by a four-voice choir featuring a boy soprano. Right away, there is immediacy to the sound of the organ. While not abrupt or glaring, the sound is strong and full with sufficient air around it. At no point in this ample program did I tire or get fatigued from the recorded sound. Inner voices are remarkably clear. Highs are clean and pleasing. Lows are stunning.
What this recording shows off remarkably well is the versatility of the instrument. Douglas Lawrence navigates his suitable voicing choices impressively and there are more than a few moments when I found myself shocked at the appropriate and beautiful character the organ emits. Listen for example to the last two minutes of the Walther Partita. It’s impossible not to smile when the tricky rhythms in the upper manuals are contrasted with the thunderous, growling contrabass.
Perhaps the most impressive track on the entire outstanding disc is the Buxtehude Prelude and Fugue. All of the voicings are remarkably clear, and Lawrence displays fine rhythmic dexterity and purpose. The massive 32’ brass bass pedals are stunning. As brilliantly as this recording captures the resonance and range of the Rieger Organ, one can only imagine what it would be like to hear it in person. The Mendelssohn Prelude is a highlight and is particularly beautiful. There is a certain expansiveness to Lawrence’s playing that makes the piece incredibly poignant. The ensuing Fugue is profound.
Just when it seems we’ve heard all this instrument has to offer, the program veers into the lesser known works of Corrette and Pierné. Here, the organ takes on a whole new character and really sounds like a different instrument, particularly in the Pierné. The warmer reeds are still rhythmically distinctive, but the sensitivity to the different musical styles is impressive and keeps the listener enthralled. The subdued woodwind voicings are sublime and the following transformation to the bright reedy voicings is stunning. The Alain Choral dorien is a beautifully thoughtful piece and a great find on this disc. The program concludes with Boëly’s thunderous Fantasie et Fugue in B flat major. It is a fitting capstone to a skilled, versatile and impressive recital.
Organists and connoisseurs will enjoy the booklet which contains the specifications for the Rieger Organ as well as an internet website address for more information. The booklet also contains mini-essays, presumably written by the organist, which give insight into the registration used for each piece and information on the composers. But whether one is an organist, lifelong enthusiast or novice, there is plenty to enjoy in this disc. Turn it up and enjoy the majesty of the Rieger Organ.