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LANDMANN Variations on a Theme of Handel.
BAIRSTOW Evening Song.
PARRY Fantasia and Fugue in G.
LISZT (arr. Guillou) Orpheus.
GÁRDONYI Grand choeur.
SAINT-SAËNS Deuxième fantasie.
COCHEREAU (arr. Filsell) Scherzo symphonique

Jane Parker-Smith (org) at Rhede, Munster

AVIE 2165 (77:04)

Organ music of the 19th-early 20th centuries has not been a priority for MP and its reviewers, so I have missed the earlier releases in this series. It has proved an unexpected surprise and so have them to other reviewers, I have discovered*.

Jane Parker-Smith has easy virtuosity which can be taken for granted, but it is at the service of an instinctive musicality which informs every phrase she performs with hands and feet. The thoughtfully constructed programme has one listening avidly to one unknown piece of music after another, and enjoying them beyond expectation.

What makes this a remarkable product is, in addition, what seems to be an exceptional instrument, in a good acoustic space and recorded ideally by the engineers. One does not feel it as a cumbersome machine which has to be tamed.

Not everything, mostly by organist composers, is a rediscovered masterpiece; Landmann's variations stay too close to the Handel original for continued interest.

The extensive notes of Martin Anderson fill out the context. The Liszt/Guillou item caught my notice; Orpheus is one of my favourites of Liszt's orchestral tone poems, and Jean Guillou my favourite organist/composer (I have a treasured collection of his discs). I find myself happy to accept Anderson's assurance that Parry's Fantasia and Fugue is "one of the finest organ compositions by any British composer". The Saint-Saens piece is memorably expressive, and Filsell's transcription from a recorded improvisation by Cochereau, "the organist's organist", a worthy finisher.

Recommended without reservation, also as a demonstration disc for your equipment. I look forward to exploring further discoveries by Parker-Smith and catching up with her earlier Volumes.

Peter Grahame Woolf

* See interview in Fanfare : - - my aim is that these recordings should be an interesting demonstration of what an instrument can achieve combined with an exciting program of music that will reveal the organ at its best and introduce the listener to music that is often completely unknown or rarely performed - -

and MusicWeb: - - an absolutely outstanding release from Avie and Jane Parker-Smith - - demonstrating that late romantic organ repertoire is so much more interesting and varied than most people think - even many professional organists, I have to say. One feels almost ashamed that so many of the compositions on the disc are so little known.