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James MacMillan: Organ Works

Stephen Farr (organ) (Resonus)

Our rating 
5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

James MacMillan
Organ Works – Kenga e Krushqve; Gaudeamus in loci pace; St Andrews’ Suite; Offertorium; White Note Paraphrase; Meditation; Wedding Introit; Toccata
Stephen Farr (organ)
Resonus RES10266   55:25 mins


Stephen Farr is making quite a speciality of single-composer albums devoted to contemporary UK organ music. Following revelatory accounts of Kenneth Leighton and Judith Bingham comes James MacMillan’s complete organ oeuvre to date – a collection that spans intimate pièces d’occasion to a substantial blockbuster of a Tombeau honouring the painter George Rouault. And Farr has plotted a course through it all that makes for an alluringly cogent recital – shorter pieces acclimatising the ear ahead of the nearly-15-minute Tombeau; the whole bookended by MacMillan’s two most recent works, (the Toccata bringing things full circle by reintroducing an Albanian folk song that had underpinned the opening track’s invitation to unbuttoned whoopee).

Gaudeamus in loci pace, a work that sounds like Charles Ives and Olivier Messiaen comparing notes at a Benedictine retreat, cultivates a thoughtful, unruffled spirituality, while the White Note Paraphrase of 1994 evokes the atmosphere of a Duruflé plainsong improvisation – just the thing to assuage the terrifying chords that sign off the Tombeau with such febrile apocalyptic finality. Farr makes light work of the latter’s formidable challenges, powering purposefully through with dauntless bravura and pungent characterisation. (It’s a real tour de force, and parading a cavalcade of prostitutes, tetchy judges and clowns there’s no room for half measures). It all shows off the superb Rieger organ of St Giles’ Cathedral, Edinburgh to thrilling effect, and together with an excellent recording and illuminating liner notes, Resonus has done MacMillan proud.


Paul Riley