Romantic and Virtuoso Works for Organ (Volume 2)
Jane Parker-Smith at the Great Seifert Organ of St. Marien Basilika Kevelaer - AVIE AV2144
EDMUNDSON: Toccata 'Von Himmel hoch'
IRELAND: Elegiac Romance
KROMOLIČKI: Theme and Variations Op. 34
ROPARTZ: Introduction et Allegro Moderato
VIERNE: Romance (Symphonie No. 4, Op. 32)
WEITZ: Symphony No. 1
I Regina Pacis
II Mater Dolorosa
III Stella Maris
What they say
"This is the kind of repertoire in which Jane Parker-Smith excels; big, gutsy, colourful, occasionally passionate, occasionally frothy, bristling with opportunities for virtuoso display but with a deeply hidden inner core of intellectual substance which elevates it above the merely showy. Flamboyance and virtuosity have long been hallmarks of the Parker-Smith style, and those who hanker alter her flashy Ferrari fingerwork will not be disappointed. Garth Edmundson's Toccata is as overwhelmingly noisy as any Formula I grand prix, and, while it is a piece of pure froth. Parker-Smith transforms it into the best champagne before shaking it vigorously to erupt - winners' enclosure style - in a scintillating shower of notes.
There's a streak of sentimentality from Ireland and Ravanello - Parker-Smith revealing her genius in intelligent programme-planning and, along the way, rooting out music which clearly doesn't deserve the obscurity into which it has fallen - while musical substance (if not actual seriousness) comes with the symphonies from Vierne and Weitz. She finds hidden wonders buried in these relatively obscure scores and communicates them with breathtaking conviction. If ever there was an object lesson in musically assertive organ-playing, this is it."
Gramophone (December 2007)
"This is an absolutely outstanding release from Avie and Jane Parker-Smith. I admire it for many reasons, perhaps the most important of which is Parker-Smith’s demonstrating so aptly that late romantic organ repertoire is so much more interesting and varied than most people think - even many professional organists, I have to say. One feels almost ashamed that so many of the compositions on the disc are so little known. Joseph Kromolicki’s highly virtuosic music for instance is fascinating. The highly developed harmonic language and compositional techniques - the canon in the second variation, the ‘Aeolian Harp’ in the fourth, and the quadruple fugue in the last - keep the listener always on the edge of his, or her, seat. Listen also to Parker-Smith’s impassioned performance of the Ireland Elegiac Romance, and the lesser known and, oh so operatic, Adorazione by Italian Oreste Ravanello, appointed to the Basilica of St Marco in Venice at the age of just 17. Guy Weitz’s slightly conservative symphony, published in 1951, is based on Gregorian themes and is atmospheric and impressive.
The organ is the giant Seifert in the Marien Basilika in Kevelaer, completed in 1907 and, at a whopping 135 stops the largest organ in a Roman Catholic church in Germany. It suits all the music here well, mostly because of the large number of enclosed stops, and better than normal - by German late-romantic standards - reeds, including a new set of Tubas copied from the Cavaillé-Coll organ in the Sacré Coeur in Paris. The recording helps also. It’s daringly distant, and gives an admirable and all too rare sense of the organ being ‘up there on the wall’ instead of in your face. It wouldn’t surprise me if other reviewers criticise this, but I think it’s fantastic.
The booklet contains excellent programme notes by Martin Anderson and some gorgeous photography.
This deserves full marks for innovative programming, wonderful playing, a superb recording and excellent presentation"
'RECORDING OF THE MONTH'
MusicWeb International (December 2007)
"The title of Jane Parker-Smith's ongoing series might throw up a few questions, but in practice it signifies a sensible programming strategy which interleaves breathtaking display pieces with breath-restoring interludes. And if, in a sense, Parker-Smith is playing to (and from) the gallery, no one can accuse her of fingering the usual suspects by playing Kromolički or Ravanello (sometime organist at St Mark's Venice). The instrument is the imposing Seifert organ in the Basilica of St Mary's Kevelaer, a turn-of-the-20th-century Romantic leviathan which Parker-Smith manages with fluent aplomb, marching colours to music with a sense of adventure which makes the most of both organ and repertoire. It's easy to cut a dash with full organ at the beginning of Guy Ropartz's Introduction et Allegro; it takes imagination, though, to winkle out the aqueous shimmer which bubbles up in the Kromolkki; and the Vierne, tenderly shaped, consolidates Parker-Smith's French credentials. Better still is Edmundson's Toccata, and, in a neat acknowledgement of the Basilica's pre-eminence as a site of Marian pilgrimage, the concluding work is the irrepressibly 'French', plainsong-derived Weitz Symphony, whose three movements solicitously salute the 'Queen of Peace', the `Mother of Sorrows' and the`Star of the Sea'...".
BBC Music Magazine (February 2008)