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Dupré: Passion Symphony - Marshall

Dupré: Passion Symphony - Marshall

Base2 Music  Base2 music 07

Stereo/Multichannel Hybrid

Classical - Instrumental


Dupré: Symphonie-Passion
Messiaen: Transports de joie
Baker: Evocation 1, Evocation 2
Marshall: Berceuse, Improvisation on the Hymn of Fatima
Schmidt: Variations and fugue on the King's fanfare from 'Fredigundis'
Villette: Elévation
Widor: Toccata from Symphony No. 5

Wayne Marshall, Mascioni organ of the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rose (Fátima)

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Review by Adrian Quanjer - May 24, 2020

There is no doubt in my mind that Base2 music production have now become prime purveyors of bespoke organ music, fitting organ buffs with music of superior quality that clearly stands out from the rest. This is their third such release and it is every bit as good as the previous two.

Looking at the results thus far, Jake Purches has a well-developed nose for sniffing out the best combinations of player and instrument, no matter where. And yet, all are different. The French Cavaillé-Coll organ of St. Étienne, Caen, Normandy, can in no way be compared to the German Seifert organ of the Marienbasilika, Kevelaer, and neither of the two with the new and ultra-sophisticated Mascioni organ in the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fàtima, Portugal. Even though the liner notes tell us that the latter choice was by accident as it was originally envisaged to record in Coventry Cathedral, it does not affect the essence of the result. On the contrary. I do not know the Coventry organ, but I can assure prospective buyers that the one in Portugal is a formidable musical beast, begging to be heard.

This time it is Wayne Marshall, pianist, organist and conductor, who pulls the stops. Well, metaphorically spoken that is, as this ultra-modern organ functions with rows of neatly marked dip switches (stop tabs or set buttons) on either side of the 5-manuals console. The booklet gives detailed information about the instrument to which I happily refer. Interesting though the technical aspects may be, especially for confirmed aficionados and specialists, people like me are in the first place anxious to learn how it sounds when played by a first-rate organist knowing his métier inside out. But before getting to that, I ought to add some brief remarks about the soloist.

Fellow of the Royal College of Music in London and Organist in Residence at the Bridgewater Hall, Manchester, Wayne Marshall holds the post of Chief conductor of the Cologne WDR Radio Orchestra. He is, moreover, frequently invited to conduct American repertoire (Bernstein, Gershwin) with some of the world’s major orchestras. Apart from being a conductor, he has a busy schedule as a talented pianist and organist. And in that capacity, it’s worth mentioning that in 2004 he was invited to inaugurate the organ in the Walt Disney Concert Hall, San Francisco, giving the world premiere of James MacMillan's organ concerto ‘A Scotch Bestiary’ with the Los Angeles Philharmonic under the direction of Esa-Pekka Salonen.

Now that we have established the credentials of Wayne Marshall, we can move on to the music. In that respect, I’m pleased to say that French composers take a big chunk of the programme, notably with Marcel Dupré’s Passion Symphony. But to start with the end (disregarding the surround version which has an added improvisation on the Hymn on Fatima), the Toccata of Widor’s Organ Symphony no. 5 is an exciting piece with which an organist can demonstrate his virtuosity. The problem, however, is that because of that many see it merely as a speed contest, often blurring the difficulty of its rhythm. To do it right, most of it comes down to the agility of the right hand. I know of only a hand full who can do it properly. But if it goes well, the listener can relax in the knowledge that the rest of the recital will go well, too. In fact, the rest goes even better.

Wayne’s ambitious tastes run high and far. The Passion Symphony is not for beginners. It is the fruit of one of the best French improvisers at the organ. It is the consolidated result of four improvisations Marcel Dupré played on the Wanamaker Grand Court Organ, with 28,750 pipes the largest still functioning pipe organ in the world, at Macy’s, Philadelphia, USA (where else?!). My first impression was one of being completely overwhelmed. As suggested in the technical notes, I had put my volume up more than usual. The neighbourhood must have been glad that there are more than six acres of land around my listening position. Although most probably not as voluminous as Wannaker’s, the sheer sound production as recorded by Base2 Music is not only most impressive but also without any audible hint of distortion. To use all the facilities and combinations at his disposal, Marshall did not leave any stop untouched, so it seemed to me, enabling him to make personal choices. Nervously powerful, yet smooth and at times soft-edged. Whether or not Dupré is your cup of tea, respect will grow by the minute for the ingenuity of the composition and the compelling commitment of the interpreter, creating a world full of spiritual inspirations that correspond so well with the holy sentiments of the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fàtima.

Three aspects of a general nature should be taken into account. (1) Where older, mechanical systems had a time lag between touching the keys and the sound coming out of the pipes, to which organists had to adept, with modern electronics, things have changed a lot. The time lag with the Mascioni organ is so short that there is none at all. (2) With the apparent quality of the louvres in the boxed pipes, the range between soft and loud is quite astonishing, requiring careful handling. (3) Another phenomenon the organist has to cope with is the extensive reverberation of the basilica. Where some may go wrong, Wayne Marshall demonstrates that he can use it to his advantage, giving the music an extra positive side effect.

George Baker, a Texan doctor is, perhaps understandably so, not a commonly known composer. Being an ardent organist himself practically all he has written is for this instrument. Both Evocations, composed in 2017, are modern jewels and -once more The French- written in memoriam of Louis Vierne and Pierre Cochereau respectively.

Wayne did not forget to cater for the (semi-) old guard with the inclusion of the Variations and Fugue on a Theme of the King’s Fanfare, written by Franz Schmidt, a late romantic Austro-Hungarian composer born in Pressburg (now Bratislava in Slovakia) and, to further demonstrate the versatility of the organ, typical contemporary French works by Pierre Villette, and, not to forget, Olivier Messiaen, with which the concert opens. Listeners are advised to read the excellent liner notes from Gregg Wager, about these and the other composers explored in this latest Base2Music release, as well as Wayne’s personal notes.

As the proverbial cherry on the cake, Wayne Marshall treats surround listeners with a set of twelve variations on the Hymn of Fàtima as improvised by the artist himself.

Included in the programme is Marshall’s own composition ‘Berceuse’, a melodious and wonderfully moving cradle song, played with gentle feeling in the best tradition of a lullaby.

Of course, this Mascioni organ still is a young instrument, and beautiful though it is, it would need more players of the kind of Wayne Marshall, to give it its proper soul. In the meantime, and for those who want to spread their wings wider than the standard repertoire, this is another winner from Base2 Music Production to enjoy

Blangy-le-Château, Normandy, France.

Copyright © 2020 Adrian Quanjer and HRAudio.net

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Comment by BRIAN SMITH - June 23, 2020 (1 of 2)

I have nothing substantive to add to the excellent review except to say that it is important to take care wrt the volume. The exceptionally deep and strong base could put your woofers - and ears - in peril if you go"full blast." Also released simultaneously with this disc is a stereo-only recording of songs "Apre ..."for soprano accompanied by an organ. The songs are by Korean and western composers -Barber, for example. It also includes an organ solo of Ravel's "Fairy Garden." This is a beautiful recital and should be listed on this site. The recording is an excellent DSD made at 6.3 MHz.

Comment by Adrian Quanjer - June 24, 2020 (2 of 2)

Hi Brian,
Good of you to warn for not putting the volume too high. At least not for a start. I take it that you have a subwoofer. I used to have one, but I found it difficult to control sudden spikes. With my GoldenEar speakers with built-in subs, things run much smoother. The lows are there all right, but more civilized.