COMPOSERS: Alain,Durufle,Franck,Hakim,Langlais & Tournemire
WORKS: Music by Hakim, Duruflé, Franck, Alain, Langlais & Tournemire
PERFORMER: Simon Bertram (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: UKCD 2070 DDD
The name of Charles Camilleri, a Maltese composer born in 1931, is probably unfamiliar to most readers, but two recent issues of his music on the Unicorn label (the other of piano concertos) should bring him a new and enthusiastic following. Bold, stark contrasts of texture, the telling use of silence and huge structural canvases are the building blocks of his craft, and are, to him, a means of communicating his deep spirituality and evoking the timelessness of life.
The style of late Messiaen is occasionally called to mind, but the richly imaginative and stunningly original stylistic strokes are wholly his own. A fine choice has been made in both instrument and performer. Ely Cathedral organ has much to offer a resourceful and musical organist, and Kevin Bowyer, an impassioned advocate of modern music, measures up splendidly to the task, displaying a keen understanding and enjoyment of this music.
Back on more familiar territory, Simon Bertram gives his debut recital (as far as I’m aware) of French Romantic repertoire on the much-lauded new Rieger organ at St Giles’s Cathedral, Edinburgh. This is a versatile instrument and Bertram is technically a most accomplished organist, but two niggling doubts that initially appeared refused to go away.
Firstly, the recording seems to lack tonal depth, and for the grandeur of the Tournemire Choral Improvisation this is quite a drawback. The same also applies to Naji Hakim’s Embrace of Fire – impressively played but the second movement fails to grab you by the throat as it should. My second doubt concerns the choice of repertoire. The reeds of the organ just do not match up to the sound-world we expect to hear in French music, and they sound insipid in Franck’s Prière and Alain’s Litanies.
Lastly, Thomas Trotter gives an outstanding Liszt recital on an organ that the composer himself knew intimately, in Merseburg, near Leipzig in eastern Germany. Trotter has recorded the BACH Prelude and Fugue previously for Decca, but now plays the original version, premiered on the same organ by one of Liszt’s pupils. For an example of Trotter’s whiplash virtuosity and sense of devilry, sample the fugue from ‘Ad nos…’. Sparkling playing.