Though other Baroque composers had written chorale arrangements for organ in which the cantus firmus was assigned to a solo wind instrument, the idea of writing a Fantasia for the same combination seems to have originated with Johann Krebs. His soulful, eloquent Fantasia in F minor for oboe and organ was celebrated in its day, and when you hear it on this engaging recording, you can well understand why. Though the fantasias are the more intricate works, the chorales with wind obbligato are admirable for their contrapuntal inventiveness and for the various ways in which the composer chooses to set the familiar tunes.
Shostakovich wrote only one work for organ, the Passacaglia Op. 29b composed as an entr'acte between the two scenes of Act II of Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk Op. 29. We hear it in performances and recordings scored for full orchestra because he realized that not many opera houses would have full-scale pipe organs. One wishes a recording would be made some day of Lady Macbeth with the organ rather than the full orchestra being used in its original context as it is absolutely shattering. Turn the volume up – and brace yourself for the explosion of sound!
Bach's organ music towers above so much else in the Western canon, that it needs no comment. But as one who enjoys going deeply into a composer for sever days, I found this set superb. I've listened to the entire set from start to finish several times; there's simply nothing else I've ever heard that compares. I'm not an organist, so I can't speak to the technical details of the performance - but Marie-Claire Alain, to my ear, delivers the perfect match of restraint, virtuosity, and grandeur for this work.
Dietrich Buxtehude's organ works are today in the standard repertoire for organists all over the world, but this is the first time an organist has engaged so intimately with Buxtehude by using the very instrument on which the works were composed. Dacapo Records' new Buxtehude series will consist of a total of six CDs, and besides the St. Mary's Church in Elsinore they will be recorded in the other two churches where the composer was employed, the S:ta Maria Church in Helsingborg and the Marienkirche in Lübeck.
Marcel Dupré had a long and busy career as a recitalist, composer, teacher, writer and editor and he exerted enormous influence on all aspects of the organist's art in the early part of this century. Dupré's place in the evolution of twentieth century organ music has yet to be fully understood or appreciated and there are those who would seek to detract from the enormous impact his playing and teaching had on countless students who studied with him. It cannot be ignored that the list of his Premier Prix students at the Paris Conservatoire contains nearly every important twentieth-century French organist and composer, including Marie-Claire Alain, Jean Langlais, Jean Guillou, Jeanne Demessieux, and Olivier Messiaën.