20th Century Organ Masterworks
According to the University’s own website – the only details of the instrument provided in the booklet with this CD are its registration – the organ of Pacific Lutheran University was built by Paul Fritts in 1998. It packs a pretty hefty punch and the solidity of its tone is reinforced by an acoustic which sounds as if it is encased within thick pile carpets and velvet curtains. However, it makes the ideal vehicle for Shostakovich’s Passacaglia.
Rather like the organ music of Britten and Tippett, the Shostakovich work holds its place in the repertory by virtue of its composer rather than its musical value, and nothing can obscure the fact that it is an interlude from an opera (Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District). Nevertheless, Iain Quinn’s sturdy and purposeful account, coupled with the organ’s forthright qualities, gives considerable credibility to the piece as a stand-alone organ work.
Considering their importance to the 20th-century organ repertory, Hindemith’s three sonatas have generally fared poorly on record. Quinn interprets Hindemith’s loose registration directions convincingly and plays the works with considerable authority; and, while I miss the lightness of spirit in the dance-flavoured Second and the touches of delicacy in the folk song-based Third, these are highly commendable performances.
The two Arvo Pärt works provide ample evidence of the organ’s consistently balanced wind supply and inappropriately grating Kellner temperament but for me the highlight of the programme is Anton Heiller’s Tanz-Toccata. It has hints of Messiaen and Langlais but is a tremendously exhilarating and invigorating rhythmic tour de force which finds both Iain Quinn and this Washington State organ firmly in their element.