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Brahms, Wagner and Dupré
(Robert Quinney, organ)

Academic Festival Overture, Op. 80
Variations on a theme by Haydn, Op. 56b
Wir wandelten, wir zwei zusammen Op. 96/2
Violin Sonata No. 3 in D minor, Op. 108 - Adagio
Die Meistersinger Prelude Act 1; Siegried Idyll
Prelude and Fugue in B Major Op. 7, No. 1; Op. 36, No. 2; Op. 7, No. 3
Variations sur un Nöel, Op. 20
Cortège et Litanie, Op. 19 No. 2

Signum SIGCD089 [145 mins]

A showcase demonstration of Westminster Cathedral's Willis organ, which the great organist-improviser-organist Marcel Dupré inaugurated in 1924. I remember being fascinated by the slithering chromaticism of his music at one of his regular London recitals in the '50s. The best place to sample these CDs is at the Variations sur un Noël Op 20 on CD II, with 12 short variations that put the organ stops through their paces enjoyably. More ponderous are the early Preludes and Fugues and, especially, the Evocation Op 37, which outstayed my welcome.

The first of part of the double CD is devoted to well loved orchestral music transcrbed for organ by Lemare and Rogg; a popular way before the time of the gramophone to become acquainted with that music, and enjoying now something of a revival (q.v. Elgar's Enigma Variations on piano).

Quinney is enviably fluent, and there is some interest always in hearing familiar music in unusual guises. My doubts about his playing were more about interpretation than technique; a tendency in the transcriptions to be stolid, rhythmically inflexible and a little ponderous. In Dupré he is expressive and, when required, exciting.

Well managed by the engineers, but the booklet could have done with some editing. Full registrations of the instrument, and lots of facts there, but needing careful reading; the transcribers should be named on the listing page and some paragraphs of Quinney's informative text are far too long (see p.8).

Desirable for organists; others should sample first.

Peter Grahame Woolf

another review...

The Organ of Westminster Cathedral
Robert Quinney plays Brahms, Wagner & Dupré
Signum Classics SIGCD089 (2 CD set)

‘Never judge a book by its cover,’ they say, but in this case, if you like the front of the box, you’ll like what’s inside. This set showcases the Willis organ at the Catholic cathedral, its richness of sound and its sheer bigness entirely consistent with the opulent Byzantine revival building in which it lives.

The CDs cover a number of salient angles – Marcel Dupré is the most appropriate of composers for the disc, since he gave the opening recital for the organ in 1924, he is moreover nowadays somewhat neglected; Quinney is a ‘rising star’ of the organ world, has worked at the Cathedral and is now down the road at the Abbey, and this is his debut solo recording.

The playing does indeed show off well the grandeur of the musical concept, and Quinney conveys both the virtuosity and expressivity of Dupré. But unless you are already persuaded by an interest in either the cathedral or in organ music (when you will rush to buy the disc), your opinions may stand or fall by how keen you are to hear Brahms and Wagner in organ transcription.

This is a very different kettle of fish from piano ‘reductions,’ although most of the transcriptions (not the St Antoni variations, which are by Lionel Rogg) are contemporary with the organ. It is much more about the evocation of a sound-world, and a simulacrum of its emotional effect, than an elucidation of textures.
I was not persuaded away from the originals, but this is not to deny the powerful ‘high concept’ and musicality of the discs, which will find many admirers.

Ying Chang