Liszt: Fantasia & Fugue on ‘Ad nos, ad salutarem undam’; Orpheus (arr. Gottschalg, Liszt); Funérailles; Trauerode; Excelsior!; Am Grabe Richard Wagners

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5.0 out of 5 star rating 5.0

COMPOSERS: Liszt
LABELS: Guild
WORKS: Fantasia & Fugue on ‘Ad nos, ad salutarem undam’; Orpheus (arr. Gottschalg, Liszt); Funérailles; Trauerode; Excelsior!; Am Grabe Richard Wagners
PERFORMER: Nicolas Kynaston (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: GMCD 7210 Reissue (1995)
This re-release of Kynaston’s 1995 recording of Liszt’s great Fantasia and Fugue on ‘Ad nos, ad salutarem undam’ still knocks spots off any other version. It is not that it lacks serious competition, either. There is Preston at the organ of Westminster Abbey and Scott at St Paul’s Cathedral, and for the authentically minded, a fine recording by Stefan Bleicher on Merseburg Cathedral organ, where the piece was premiered. But there is no doubt that Kynaston still comes out on top, with his mature and wholly engaging reading.

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The 1977 Klais organ of Ingolstadt Minster is a huge musical resource, similar in size to that of Merseburg Cathedral, though possessing yet more colour and depth. For music of such expansive ambition it is the perfect partner, if used with the sensitivity and imagination it is here, and recorded with such exemplary luminosity and detail. Kynaston’s real achievement, however, is to engineer a complete poetic span, lasting over half an hour. His control of architecture allows space both for the breathtakingly beautiful musical oasis and for the head-over-heels dive towards the final intonation of Meyerbeer’s ‘Ad nos’ chorale theme. In so many attempts at this piece, the central Adagio section is soporific and the final fugue facile, if technically assured, with the two sections sitting beside each other as an estranged couple. Kynaston forces us to live and breathe the piece with him, coaxing us and then finally hauling us bodily to the final thrilling bars. It is Kynaston at his best. William Whitehead