LABELS: King’s College Cambridge
ALBUM TITLE: Liszt * Mendelssohn * Reubke
WORKS: Liszt: Fantasy and Fugue on ‘Ad Nos, Ad Salutarem Undam’; Reubke: Organ Sonata on the 94th Psalm; Mendelssohn: Organ Sonata No. 6, Op. 65/6
PERFORMER: Stephen Cleobury (organ)
CATALOGUE NO: KGS 0010 (hybrid CD/SACD)
In the days of LP, Liszt’s extended meditation on a theme from Meyerbeer’s Le prophète, and Reubke’s Sonata on the 94th Psalm (composed seven years later under Ad Nos’s capacious shadow), were an almost ‘Cav and Pag’ coupling. With the extra playing time of the CD, Stephen Cleobury’s first organ release on King’s College’s own label astutely adds another work with a religious subtext: Mendelssohn’s chorale-indebted Sixth Sonata.
On the plus side the Mendelssohn injects a welcome palate-cleansing classicism between the hyper-charged Liszt and Reubke, especially given Cleobury’s lucid and refreshingly unsentimental account. Its D minor tonality, however, affords little respite from the two towering C minor doorstops of the 19th-century organ literature that bookend it. They, inevitably, are the headline works, and Cleobury’s technical command makes light of their fearsome virtuosic challenges. He might not always exact the last ounce of dramatic frisson, but the Reubke’s first movement Allegro is played with assertive truculence, and he shapes the opening of Liszt’s fugal finale with granite-like muscular determination ahead of a blazing coda. The Chapel’s acoustic, however, coupled with the organ’s fulsomely rounded sound conspire to undermine clarity when textures thicken. Paul Riley