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Opus 76 / Alan Morrison

Bach / Locklair / Sessler / Morrison / Santora
Release Date: 05/11/2010 
Label:  Aca Digital   Catalog #: 20108   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Eric SesslerAnne WilsonJoseph JongenDan Locklair,   ... 
Performer:  Alan Morrison
Conductor:  Mischa Santora
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 10 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

OPUS 76 Mischa Santora, cond; 1 CO of Philadelphia; 1 Alan Morrison (org) ACA 20108 (69:35)

SESSLER 1 Organ Concerto. WILSON Toccata. BACH Concerto in a , BWV 593. Read more class="COMPOSER12">JONGEN Prière. LOCKLAIR Rubrics: The Peace May Be Exchanged. HAMPTON 5 Dances

The title of this release refers not to a piece of music but rather to the organ recorded: the much-anticipated Fred J. Cooper Memorial Organ in Verizon Hall of the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia. The instrument, opus 76 (2006) of Dobson Pipe Organ Builders, is the largest mechanical-action instrument in an American concert hall. Superb organist Alan Morrison (a faculty member at the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia) has programmed a CD intended to show off the various capabilities of the instrument. Morrison has always been a champion of living American composers, and the major work on the CD is the organ concerto of Eric Sessler (one of Morrison’s colleagues at Curtis). Morrison had recorded a solo piece of Sessler (b. 1969) on one of his previous CDs and when a commission from the Curtis Symphony arose, Sessler decided to write an organ concerto for Morrison to premiere on the Verizon Hall instrument. The work contains three movements: “Electric Daydreams” (inspired by the electric guitar music that preoccupied Sessler’s youth); “A Child’s Night Journey” (a nocturnal fantasy inspired by watching his daughter sleep); and “Momentum” (a movement originally left untitled until Morrison, while listening to a computer demo of the work in his car, found himself unwittingly driving 90 miles per hour by the time the music finished). The piece is appealingly colorful, and the organ and orchestra are well integrated. The recent years have seen more organ concerti being created than the available performance opportunities probably justify, but Sessler has written a work that deserves future hearings.

Cleveland-based composer Anne Wilson is best known as an organist herself (particularly through her organ duo performances with Todd Wilson). Her Toccata (2001) has been making the rounds in recent years in the recital repertoire of a number of young organists. Most seem to find it exciting, though I have always felt it comes off as a rather heavy-handed piece.

Two works of the European standard repertoire form the inner tracks of the disc. BWV 593 is the most often played of Bach’s solo concerto transcriptions after Vivaldi (and other composers). The Belgian composer Joseph Jongen is remembered almost exclusively for his organ compositions, particularly a work for organ and orchestra. Prière is a quiet and lush meditation.

American composer Dan Locklair wrote Rubrics in 1988, and the work quickly entered the standard repertoire. Each of the movements is inspired by a different quotation from the Book of Common Prayer. The work (along with the earlier Inventions ) laid down the basic elements of Locklair’s characteristic organ style, which he has employed in many works in the years following. However, Rubrics remains his most popular piece—probably because it is such a compellingly focused work whose musical ideas have a strongly etched profile that has sometimes eluded Locklair in his later organ solos. Morrison chose to record the most famous movement, which shows off the lush string stops.

In Fanfare 33:5, I reviewed Jonathan Hall’s new biography of Calvin Hampton (1934–84), one of the finest organ composers in history. Five Dances (1981) is his most famous (and probably best) work for solo organ: a magnificent set of movements that couple varied ostinato textures with memorable material and idiomatic use of the instrument. Cherry Rhodes’s excellent premiere recording (on Pro Organo) is out of print, and I believe that Morrison’s superb performance is the only complete recording of this masterpiece readily available. (Individual movements, particularly the second movement, have shown up often on organ recital CDs.)

This is a very satisfying release. Alan Morrison is a first-rate organist, and Sessler’s organ concerto plus Hampton’s dances make this especially appealing for any lover of organ music. Sound is good, although there is a slight pinching at several climaxes in the outer movements of the Sessler concerto. The Dobson organ comes across as a versatile instrument; while lacking (at least in this recording) any stops of truly stunning voicing (like the Rosales instrument in Disney Hall, Los Angeles), it should serve very well the needs of the hall and future performers.

FANFARE: Carson Cooman
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Works on This Recording

Organ Concerto by Eric Sessler
Performer:  Alan Morrison (Organ)
Conductor:  Mischa Santora
Date of Recording: 06/23/2009 
Venue:  Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center for the Perf 
Length: 17 Minutes 16 Secs. 
Toccata, for solo organ by Anne Wilson
Performer:  Alan Morrison (Organ)
Written: 2001 
Date of Recording: 06/23/2009 
Venue:  Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center for the Perf 
Length: 5 Minutes 5 Secs. 
Pieces (4) for Organ, Op. 37: no 3, Pričre by Joseph Jongen
Performer:  Alan Morrison (Organ)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1910; Belgium 
Date of Recording: 06/23/2009 
Venue:  Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center for the Perf 
Length: 10 Minutes 48 Secs. 
Rubrics: The Peace may be exchanged by Dan Locklair
Performer:  Alan Morrison (Organ)
Period: Modern 
Date of Recording: 06/23/2009 
Venue:  Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center for the Perf 
Length: 3 Minutes 16 Secs. 
Dances (5) for Organ by Calvin Hampton
Performer:  Alan Morrison (Organ)
Period: 20th Century 
Written: 1982; USA 
Date of Recording: 06/23/2009 
Venue:  Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center for the Perf 
Length: 20 Minutes 4 Secs. 
Concerto for Organ solo in A minor, BWV 593 (after Vivaldi) by Johann Sebastian Bach
Performer:  Alan Morrison (Organ)
Conductor:  Mischa Santora
Period: Baroque 
Written: 1708-1717; Weimar, Germany 
Date of Recording: 06/23/2009 
Venue:  Verizon Hall, Kimmel Center for the Perf 
Length: 11 Minutes 1 Secs. 

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