CD review: Matthew Larkin plays the organ of St. Paul’s Anglican Church

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Matthew Larkin plays the organ of St. Paul’s Anglican Church

Music by Couperin, Bach, Mendelssohn, Franck, Reger, Howells, Willan, Duruflé, Messiaen, MacMillan, Jongen, Jarrett, Ager and Mallory

ATMA Classique ACD2 2857 (two CDs)

★★★★

This two-disc recital by the British-born Ottawa organist Matthew Larkin covers a vast stylistic territory but sits you squarely in the centre of a resonant Canadian church – St. Paul’s Anglican in Toronto, to be precise. Many Casavant instruments have a majestic sonority but Op. 550 of 1914, also called the Blackstock Memorial Organ, is particularly admired for its “scope and beauty,” to quote the title of one of Larkin’s lucid booklet essays. The organist successfully adapts it to the fugal intricacies of Duruflé, the symphonic might of Mendelssohn, the solemn colours of Reger and the mystical inspirations of Howells and Messiaen (the latter represented, curiously, by Larkin’s transcription of the eighth movement of the Quatuor pour la fin du temps rather than an original organ composition). If Couperin’s Les barricades mysterieuses, originally for harpsichord, sounds a little heavy-handed, well, you cannot have everything. The mandatory items by Healey Willan, with whom this instrument is most closely identified, include, helpfully, the second (rather than the better-known first) Passacaglia and Fugue. (The resemblance of this ostinato to that of Bach’s celebrated Passacaglia is presumably not coincidental.) There is a jaunty performance of Sir Ernest MacMillan’s Cortège académique and a dutiful treatment of the remarkably simple and straight-up Hymn of Remembrance by Keith Jarrett. A little bit of this resplendent instrument goes a long way; listening breaks are advisable. But the selections (including some non-avant-garde contemporary works) are appealing and the playing is apt. ATMA has captured the sonority of the space impressively. 

This page is also available in / Cette page est également disponible en: Francais (French)

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About Author

Arthur Kaptainis has been a classical music critic since 1986. His articles have appeared in Classical Voice North America and La Scena Musicale as well as Musical Toronto. Arthur holds an MA in musicology from the University of Toronto. Since 2019, Arthur is co-editor of La Scena Musicale.

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