Tchaikovsky at the Organ - Jonathan Vaughn

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PYOTR ILYICH TCHAIKOVSKY - Tchaikovsky at the Organ - Jonathan Vaughn (Organ) - Organ of St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol - 802561049425 - Released: March 2018 - Regent REGCD494

1} Finale: Allegro con fuoco from Symphony No. 4 in F minor, Op. 36 - arr Jonathan Vaughn
2} Andante cantabile from Symphony No. 5 in E minor, Op. 64 - arr Edwin Lemare
3} Nocturne in C sharp minor, Op. 19 no. 4 - arr Edwin Lemare
4} Fantasy-Overture: Romeo and Juliet - arr Edwin Lemare
5} Nutcracker Suite, Op. 71a - arr Jonathan Vaughn

I was so impressed by organist Jonathan Vaughn's prior Wagner at the Organ release from May 2013, that I was very eager to hear this new recording the minute it landed on my desk. And I must say that the "wow" factor has gone up a couple of notches. Not only is Jonathan Vaughn's playing just as riveting as before, but now some of the transcription/arrangements for organ of these orchestral works are his own, and remarkably done. Everyone knows how rambunctious and flamboyant the final movement of Tchaikovsky's Fourth Symphony is, and how taxing it can be on even the finest symphony orchestras. So I was expecting Vaughn's organ transcription to omit some of the notes from some of the orchestral parts, but it seems he's thrown everything in but the kitchen sink, and his colorful and varied registration throughout, including what I believe are the Tromba and Contra Tromba at the 5:50 mark, all make for a thrilling listening experience. During the final minute or so, I always feel like standing up and clapping him on to the finish and yelling Bravo at the very end. This is truly a one-man-80-piece-orchestra showmanship at work here.

In contrast, Edwin Lemare's darker arrangement of the Andante cantabile well projects this movement's dramatic pathos. And some of the stops used in the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy and the Danse Chinoise from the Nutcracker Suite are so charming and effective as to have you believe that you're listening to an orchestra. (I for one would really like to know what magic combination of stops he uses in the pedals for the Danse Chinoise to create that "huffy puffy" sound.)

The 1912 Harrison and Harrison Organ of St Mary Redcliffe is a remarkable instrument, and recording engineer Gary Cole has managed to capture its essence and power in this impressive recording. Crank up the volume at the end of the 4th Symphony and you're guaranteed an automatic big grin on your face!

Below is a short video of Jonathan Vaughn playing an excerpt from the Nutcracker Suite, but on a different organ.

Jean-Yves Duperron - April 2018