RENÉ LOUIS BECKER - Organ Music Vol. 3

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Cavaillé-Coll Organ
RENÉ LOUIS BECKER - Organ Music Vol. 3 - Damin Spritzer (Organ) - 034069699929 - Released: August 2017 - Raven OAR-999

1} Marche Pontificale
2} Sur la Rivière, Op. 77b
3} Méditation, Op. 51, no. 5
4} Allegro Risoluto, Op. 68b
5} Clair de Lune, Op. 75b
6} Rêve des Anges, Op. 53a
7} Postlude in F-sharp Major, Op. 69d
8} Idylle Angélique, Op. 71
9} Marche Militaire, Op. 62
10} Pastorella, Op. 81b
11} In Chapel, Op. 81d
12} Song of Joy, Op. 81e
13} Mélodie Elégiaque, Op. 2
14} Marche Nuptiale, Op. 1, no. 2

It's become obvious by now that organist Damin Spritzer is the de facto proponent for the music of René Louis Becker (1882-1956), an organist and prolific composer whose recognition has faded over time. Substantiating this is the fact that all the pieces on this CD are world première recordings, as I believe was the case for most of the selections on Volume 1 and Volume 2. It's also evident in her playing, that all the time and effort she has spent over the last few years learning, performing, preparing the pieces for recordings, and at the same time producing a complete multi-volume critical edition of Becker's organ music, has reinforced her intimate knowledge of this music.

It's easy for composers to impress an audience with fast and loud pieces like the Postlude in F-sharp Major for example, and I'll be the first one to admit that these are the pieces I seek out first on a recording, but this time around it's the slow and soft pieces on this disc that best exemplify Becker's writing skills and Spritzer's committed playing. For example, Sur la Rivière has a lyrical flow to it that would make it an ideal Ave maria if it was turned into a song, and demonstrates that even an organ's fundamental stops can shine. And the Méditation has such a devout feeling to it that it would make for perfect background music in a documentary about convents. And you would be hard-pressed to find an organ work as tenderly expressive as the Clair de Lune, so well judged and precisely registrated here by Damin Spritzer. There's even something of a theatrical piece in the form of a duet featuring Adam Pajan playing on the Antiphonal console featuring what seems to be the Piccolo and Chimes.

This is the first recording featuring the fully restored 1938 W. W. Kimball Co. Opus 7231 pipe organ in St. John's Cathedral, Denver, Colorado. I was well aware of Kimball's reputation as a home and theatre organ manufacturer, but little did I know that this Chicago company had built 7,300 pipe organs. This one is the largest American cathedral organ built prior to World War II. It was carefully restored between 2008-2012, retaining all of its original pipes, and the Antiphonal organ was added and installed in 2016. In total, this instrument boasts 113 ranks and 7,057 pipes and includes an impressive number of stops for the pedals alone. The one and only trivial quibble I have about this organ's sound is its slight lack of brilliance on top to counterbalance its bottom-heavy predisposition. Other than that, if you've heard and liked the first two volumes of Damin Spritzer's traversal of Becker's output, you will no doubt like this one just as well. If you haven't, you have some catching up to do!

Jean-Yves Duperron - August 2017