Romantic and Virtuoso Works for Organ

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Romantic and Virtuoso Works for Organ (Vol. 1)

Jane Parker-Smith at the Goll organ of St. Martin Memmingen - AVIE AV0034


LANQUETUIT: Toccata in D major
BOULNOIS: Choral in F sharp minor
MULET: Rosace
JONGEN: Sonata Eroïca
WHITLOCK: Fantaisie Choral No. 1
DEMESSIEUX: Répons pour le Temps du Pâques
BOWEN: Melody in G minor
MIDDELSCHULTE: Passacaglia in D minor


What they say

"Great programme, wonderful instrument, superb soloist - this is a real winner" 

Gramophone Magazine, UK  

"This CD fulfils its promise - works that are unquestionably romantic and certainly virtuosic. For the uninitiated, it is a great introduction to romantic organ music while for others it will be an introduction to some lesser-known romantic composers worthy of more exposure. Here we have French, English, Belgian and German composers spanning almost 120 years from the 1860s onwards ....The accompanying booklet (in English, French and German) is well-produced and provides detailed notes on the music, the organist and the organ - console, case and specification .......It was a real pleasure to listen to such a splendid organ in a building with a great acoustic in Jane Parker-Smith's hands. This CD gives almost 72 minutes of brilliant organ playing of an interesting, enjoyable and perhaps somewhat refreshing selection of romantic pieces. Avie Records are to be congratulated - Volume 2 will be something to look forward to, the standard has been set!" 

Incorporated Society of Organists - Organists' Review, UK

"First, the organ: St Martin's, Memmingen, Germany, built in 1998 in the French symphonic style. Secondly, the repertoire: concert works with nary a whiff of incense, mainly by organist-composers, all written between 1914 and 1968........There are few organists around who can equal Jane Parker-Smith on this kind of instrument ........Her performances of these pieces come highly recommended almost as a matter of course.....The full force of the Goll organ with its thunderous 32 foots will, I promise, test your speakers to the limit"

Double five star rating - BBC Music Magazine, UK

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Romantic and Virtuoso Works for Organ (Vol. 2)

Jane Parker-Smith at the Great Seifert Organ of St. Marien Basilika Kevelaer - AVIE AV2144


EDMUNDSON: Toccata 'Von Himmel hoch' 
IRELAND: Elegiac Romance
KROMOLIČKI: Theme and Variations Op. 34
RAVANELLO: Adorazione
ROPARTZ: Introduction et Allegro Moderato
VIERNE: Romance (Symphonie No. 4, Op. 32) 
WEITZ: Symphony No. 1
I Regina Pacis
II Mater Dolorosa
III Stella Maris


What they say

"This is the kind of repertoire in which Jane Parker-Smith excels; big, gutsy, colourful, occasionally passionate, occasionally frothy, bristling with opportunities for virtuoso display but with a deeply hidden inner core of intellectual substance which elevates it above the merely showy. Flamboyance and virtuosity have long been hallmarks of the Parker-Smith style, and those who hanker alter her flashy Ferrari fingerwork will not be disappointed. Garth Edmundson's Toccata is as overwhelmingly noisy as any Formula I grand prix, and, while it is a piece of pure froth. Parker-Smith transforms it into the best champagne before shaking it vigorously to erupt - winners' enclosure style - in a scintillating shower of notes.

"There's a streak of sentimentality from Ireland and Ravanello - Parker-Smith revealing her genius in intelligent programme-planning and, along the way, rooting out music which clearly doesn't deserve the obscurity into which it has fallen - while musical substance (if not actual seriousness) comes with the symphonies from Vierne and Weitz. She finds hidden wonders buried in these relatively obscure scores and communicates them with breathtaking conviction. If ever there was an object lesson in musically assertive organ-playing, this is it."

Gramophone (December 2007)

"This is an absolutely outstanding release from Avie and Jane Parker-Smith. I admire it for many reasons, perhaps the most important of which is Parker-Smith’s demonstrating so aptly 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. Joseph Kromolicki’s highly virtuosic music for instance is fascinating. The highly developed harmonic language and compositional techniques - the canon in the second variation, the ‘Aeolian Harp’ in the fourth, and the quadruple fugue in the last - keep the listener always on the edge of his, or her, seat. Listen also to Parker-Smith’s impassioned performance of the Ireland Elegiac Romance, and the lesser known and, oh so operatic, Adorazione by Italian Oreste Ravanello, appointed to the Basilica of St Marco in Venice at the age of just 17. Guy Weitz’s slightly conservative symphony, published in 1951, is based on Gregorian themes and is atmospheric and impressive.

"The organ is the giant Seifert in the Marien Basilika in Kevelaer, completed in 1907 and, at a whopping 135 stops the largest organ in a Roman Catholic church in Germany. It suits all the music here well, mostly because of the large number of enclosed stops, and better than normal - by German late-romantic standards - reeds, including a new set of Tubas copied from the Cavaillé-Coll organ in the Sacré Coeur in Paris. The recording helps also. It’s daringly distant, and gives an admirable and all too rare sense of the organ being ‘up there on the wall’ instead of in your face. It wouldn’t surprise me if other reviewers criticise this, but I think it’s fantastic.

"The booklet contains excellent programme notes by Martin Anderson and some gorgeous photography.

"This deserves full marks for innovative programming, wonderful playing, a superb recording and excellent presentation."

MusicWeb International (December 2007)

"The title of Jane Parker-Smith's ongoing series might throw up a few questions, but in practice it signifies a sensible programming strategy which interleaves breathtaking display pieces with breath-restoring interludes. And if, in a sense, Parker-Smith is playing to (and from) the gallery, no one can accuse her of fingering the usual suspects by playing Kromolički or Ravanello (sometime organist at St Mark's Venice). The instrument is the imposing Seifert organ in the Basilica of St Mary's Kevelaer, a turn-of-the-20th-century Romantic leviathan which Parker-Smith manages with fluent aplomb, marching colours to music with a sense of adventure which makes the most of both organ and repertoire. It's easy to cut a dash with full organ at the beginning of Guy Ropartz's Introduction et Allegro; it takes imagination, though, to winkle out the aqueous shimmer which bubbles up in the Kromolkki; and the Vierne, tenderly shaped, consolidates Parker-Smith's French credentials. Better still is Edmundson's Toccata, and, in a neat acknowledgement of the Basilica's pre-eminence as a site of Marian pilgrimage, the concluding work is the irrepressibly 'French', plainsong-derived Weitz Symphony, whose three movements solicitously salute the 'Queen of Peace', the `Mother of Sorrows' and the`Star of the Sea'...".

SOUND ****

BBC Music Magazine (February 2008)

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Romantic and Virtuoso Works for Organ (Vol. 3)

Jane Parker-Smith at the Organ of the Church of St. Gudula in Rhede - AVIE AV2165


LANDMANN: Variations on a theme of Handel, Op.29
BAIRSTOW: Evening Song
PARRY: Fantasia and Fugue in G
LISZT: Symphonic Poem ‘Orpheus’ tr. Jean Guillou
GÁRDONYI: Grand Choeur
SAINT-SAËNS: Deuxième Fantaisie, Op. 101
COCHEREAU: Scherzo Symphonique (1974) tr. Jeremy Filsell


What they say

"The repertoire for Vol. 3 of Parker-Smith’s series consists primarily of shorter works, which range from six to 15 minutes in length. The most extended piece is the transcription by Jean Guillou of Liszt’s symphonic poem Orpheus. Orpheus is one of Liszt’s least-complicated symphonic poems and thus works well in its organ guise, even if it is far from his most interesting piece.

"Though her repertoire choices for the previous volumes have focused primarily on the 20th century, this is the first volume to include a work by a living composer: Hungarian Zsolt Gárdonyi’s Grand Choeur, which began life as a French-styled improvisation. Scherzo Symphonique is also based upon improvisation; it is a transcription from a recording by the great 20th-century organist Pierre Cochereau. He notated many works during his lifetime, but was particularly famed for the breadth and complexity of his improvisations. This particular piece was improvised by him in near-identical versions twice; organist Jeremy Filsell created a performing score from these recordings. Like nearly all of Cochereau’s works, it is an exciting piece that shows off both organ and organist extremely well. For this listener, the most pleasing “discoveries” were the pieces by Czech composer Bedřich Wiedermann and German composer Arno Landmann. The Wiedermann work is particularly characterful, and it tempers the typical passionate violence of 20th-century Czech music with some wryly humorous textures. Landmann’s Variations on a Theme of Handel (a sarabande from a keyboard suite) call to mind Landmann’s teacher Max Reger in their dense, full-featured use of the organ; they do, however, have their own personal character. The works by Bairstow and Parry display both the well-known virtues and weaknesses that run through the outputs of both composers. The Parry, however, has much to commend it (particularly the skilful and interesting fugue), placing it above the majority of his instrumental music. This writer is not a fan of Saint-Saëns, and his piece is a typical work for him; if one likes his music, though, it will appeal.

"Parker-Smith’s commitment to this repertoire is obvious. She plays with palpable passion, and the organ of the church of St. Gudula in Rhede, Germany, serves the music’s needs very well. Avie’s sound and production values are strong. The previous two volumes in this series were satisfying listening experiences, and this newest addition continues that trend. In an age where the repertoire of most organ recital discs seems to retread the same well-worn ground, Parker-Smith’s industrious approach to her recital and recording programming is most welcome."

Fanfare Magazine USA
(March/April 2009)

"Parker-Smith takes no prisoners when it comes to repertoire or performance. Eschewing popular showpieces, she chooses a programme of predominantly unfamiliar 20th-century works to put her and the magnificent organ of St Gudula. Rhede (Westphalia) through their paces. Parker-Smith plays with astonishing verve - she can certainly deliver the thrill factor - and Wiedermann’s Impetuoso and Cochereau's Scherzo symphonique give your speakers a work out. But she couples this with a keen ear for colour and almosphere, as in Arno Landmann's Variations on a theme of Handel. The disc is vividly recorded." JN

**** Classic FM Magazine UK (May 2009)
Strongly recommended alongside the earlier volumes ... Brian Wilson

"Jane Parker-Smith’s earlier recordings in this series have been generally well-received. On this new recording, as on the earlier volumes, she performs an interesting mix of the fairly familiar and the unfamiliar, from the English, French, German and other European traditions, this time on the organ of St Gudula in Rhede, a fine modern instrument, with full specification and illustrations included in the excellent booklet.

"I hadn’t encountered Wiedermann (tr.1), Landmann (tr.2) or Gárdonyi (tr.6) before, but I’m pleased to have heard their music on this CD. The Landmann Variations on a Theme of Handel (tr.2), a demanding piece which brings out the glories of the organ to fine effect, deserve to be part of the regular repertoire. At 15:36, this is the longest item here, but it never outstays its welcome. The Bairstow (tr.3) and Parry (tr.4), on the other hand, are staple fare, at any rate for Anglophone organists; though we tend to associate such music with the Willis style of organ, they, too, suit the versatile Rhede organ.

"Zsolt Gárdonyi’s Grand Chœur (tr.6) is a particularly interesting work; it might well have come from the pen of Widor or Vierne, by which I don’t mean to imply that it sounds derivative – in fact, it’s an impressive piece which also deserves to be part of the repertoire, though it’s surprising to hear a contemporary composer writing in a comparatively old-fashioned idiom.

"I’m never sure why organists feel the need to perform transcriptions of orchestral music when there is such a wide and varied repertoire for their instrument, so I could have done without the Liszt Orpheus (tr.5) in favour of another piece from the English or French tradition. Oddly enough, in this transcription by Jean Guillou the opening of the music sounds like an original organ piece by Guillou himself or early Messiaen, so the track proves to be not as unwelcome as I had imagined, especially as Parker-Smith gets some lovely growly sounds out of the organ. By the end of the work I was even beginning to prefer this transcription to the original.

"The Cochereau transcription (tr.8), on the other hand, is very well worth having: this is not a transcription of an orchestral piece but a very effective realisation by Jeremy Filsell from Cochereau’s own improvised 1974 recording of his Scherzo symphonique. Not for nothing was Cochereau dubbed the organist’s organist and this piece rounds off the recital very effectively.

"Parker-Smith’s performances throughout are thoroughly idiomatic and the recording captures the full range of the organ very well. As early as her first recording, aged 23 (for Music for Pleasure on the Westminster Cathedral Organ, an LP which sold for 71p!) her reputation has been based on her love of big romantic sounds and her ability to manage them, and the new CD is no exception. She’s recorded for several labels since then, notably recently for Avie; I must catch up with the earlier Avie volumes which I missed. Her reputation alone will probably sell this new recording; those who buy it on the strength of that reputation will not be disappointed.

"This is an interesting programme, excellently performed and recorded and well presented, as were the earlier volumes. At 77:04, the CD is well filled, too.

Brian Wilson
MusicWeb International (April 2009)