This CD is reissued by ArkivMusic.
Notes and Editorial Reviews
When writing for the organ, Mendelssohn invites a baroque approach. No matter how romantic the phrasing may see, the lie of the notes under hands and feet indicates that more than a momentar straying from the beat will sully the majesty of the scoring. Controlling the great choruses and the intimate two- and three-part writing in a matter of keeping the architecture in just proportion and amorphous disaster in the price that would be paid for excursions into elasticity.
The big accelerando in the main movement of the A major Sonata, with the De profundis chorale in the bass, is perhaps the one big departure from this principle. Hurford rolls through it pretty calmly. Alain sees it coming and starts, like a greyhound in the
slips, making a breathtaking outburst of vigorous excitement. Yet Hurford at Razeburg has far more colours to play with, and certainly does not spoil the ship for a ha'p'orth of prismatic tar. He sometimes rounds off a quiet cadence by gently closing a swell box. His flute-and-tremulant solo in the second movement of the C minor Sonata is liquid joy. There seems to be an abundance of prominent solo stops at Ratzeburg and this evokes a large-scale conception and marginally more sticky-fingered emotion than Alain affords in her apparently more severely classical environment. No specification is given for the Ringsted instrument, but it sound as if all its stops are rank-and-file choristers from among whom soloists mus be chosen.
Both organs are playing into lively buildings. The Ratzeburg instrument sounds wider spread and the microphone is only medium-close. The reverberation at Ringsted is considerable but more contained and the microphone is closely inquisitive, interested in suspiration and glottal and labial characteristics, all of which help to give an effect of precision. On the whole, Alain makes more use of diapason tone than Hurford, even in those places where the sigh of fluetes might be expected. This lends a sobriety which substitutes puritan meditation for what might otherwise be the merest hint of a gleam in the eye. Both players are quite straight-laced with such little 'Songs without words' as the second movement of the F minor Sonata and the wistful tail-piece to the D minor Sonata. Both players make the toccatas take off with a tremendous flurry of impeccable technique but whereas Hurford ascends, leaving me in wonder, Alain, with the closer balance, takes me with her as a passenger, so that the glitter and the clatter are always very near.
I find Mendelssohn speaks to me clerare through Alain's tonally economial approach, but I find a great deal that is thrilling on the Hurford record. Those who adore lots of addition and subtraction among the stops and like to have climaxes punched out with clangorous reeds and 32-foot stops will buy a ticket to Ratzeburg. It's a marvellous sound and I revere every moment of the playing, the CD having considerably more clarity than the LP. But if I might only have one of these records, I would choose Alain. There is, of course a difference of programme content. The late Andante and variations on the Alain disc is a welcome bonus. Hans Fagius, for those seeking a 65 on BIS. I thought highly of them at the time.
-- Gramophone [4/1986]
See Peter Hurford recording
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