Buy CD from Amazon
MUSIC FOR THE TESTAMENTS OLD AND NEW - Laura Ellis (Organ) - 2-Disc Set - 034069699523 - Released: February 2017 - Raven OAR-995

Herman Berlinski: The Burning Bush
Stephen Paulus: King David's Dance
Paul Richards: Praise - in five movements *
Keith Branson: The Transformation of Jeremiah *
Herman Berlinski: The Three Festivals (Shalosh Regalim)
Daniel Pinkham: A Prophecy
Joel Martinson: Incarnation Suite - in four movements
Seth Bingham: Annunciation
Keith Branson: Meditation on Luke 2:21 (The Circumcision of Christ) *
Paul J. Sifler: Contemplations on the Seven Words of Christ on the Cross - in seven movements
Larry King: Resurrection
Stephen Montague: Behold a Pale Horse

* Première Recordings

I generally do not like collection discs like this one as they usually bring together disparate elements from various composers and/or sources with no common denominator acting as a thread to bind everything together from start to finish, and often include lesser works as filler, and therefore fail to hold your attention for more than a few minutes at a time. On the other hand, this new recording by Raven, the pipe organ specialist label, was built from the ground up, including some first recordings, on a concept or theme based on scripture from the old and new testaments. And despite the fact that these 10 composers conceived their own music on these biblical texts from opposite angles and wide ranging perspectives, the one thing they share in common and which holds this collection together, is that they all composed music to be performed on a pipe organ, rather than music written for the organ. This may sound like one and the same, but there is a huge difference between the two approaches. The pieces may all be wide ranging in sound and style, but they all use the pipe organ as the protagonist to project the manifold ideas and philosophies within the music.

Plaudits to organist Laura Ellis for undertaking such an overwhelming project. To learn and master these demanding pieces could easily have been a deterrent and major obstacle for many organists to overcome, but she drives each one forward with insight and expressive control by using the sonic arsenal of this instrument to her advantage. It's the Andrew Anderson Memorial Organ at the University of Florida, Gainesville. A 5 manual, 99 rank 2015 Reuter Organ newly built atop an Aeolian-Skinner Op. 501, which certainly has the range of stops and combinations needed to deliver the wide range of expressive power and vivid images that these various pieces portray.

For example, everyone knows that the Book of Revelations contains some terrifying and ghastly visions, one of which composer Stephen Montague brilliantly brings forth in Behold a Pale Horse. One word of warning, or better yet, good advice: Play this one loud. It has the potential to actually unsettle your psyche. And if you play it loud enough, the neighbours will have the authorities take you away. Not because you were disturbing the peace, but because they believe you've gone completely mad. Enjoy!

Jean-Yves Duperron - February 2017