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Pictures at an Exhibiton: The Ruffati Organ of Buckfast Abbey

Martin Baker (organ) (Ad Fontes)

Our rating 
3.0 out of 5 star rating 3.0

Pictures at an Exhibiton – The Ruffati Organ of Buckfast Abbey
Works by Wolff, JS Bach, Grigny, Jongen, Widor & Musorgsky
Martin Baker (organ)
Ad Fontes AF 001   74.19 mins

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The organ transcription, once very much in vogue and subsequently deeply unfashionable, is seeing something of a resurgence yet tolerance levels can still be tested when unnecessary new versions of Pictures at an Exhibition turn up. Martin Baker played his transcription at the opening of the new organ at Buckfast Abbey in 2018 and has now recorded it, but this performance will be of interest only really to fans of the organist – one of Britain’s outstanding church musicians, who amid apparent acrimony recently resigned as master of music at Westminster Cathedral – and those with a vested interest in Devon’s historic monastery.

Baker puts the beautiful-looking new instrument – claimed as the biggest in southwest England – through its all-too-steady paces in the Musorgsky, adopting tempos that sound cautious in a work of flair and fantasy. Built by the 80-year-old Padua-based firm of Ruffatti, the first example in England by a maker better-known in the USA, the organ has a ‘symphonic’ sound that proves well blended if hardly distinctive in the Musorgsky. Its Positivo division supplies authentic chiff and rumble in Nicolas de Grigny’s Récit de tierce en taille, one of the most appealing items in the first half of the recital, but Joseph Jongen’s delicate Chant de Mai loses its magic and the more standard pieces by Bach and Widor receive no more than solid performances. John Allison

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