Fernando Germani at Selby Abbey
In the early 1960s the great Italian virtuoso Fernando Germani recorded three LPs for HMV at Selby Abbey. They became well known and much admired, especially the first disc, of music by Franck, Liszt, Reger and Widor, reissued in HMV’s ‘Concert Classics Series’. The marvellous sounds of the abbey’s four-manual Hill organ were brilliantly captured by EMI’s engineers. But the instrument’s condition has deteriorated to the point where it will soon be unplayable. Proceeds from the sales of this CD will go towards the Selby Abbey Organ Appeal, and it’s an excellent idea to make highlights from Germani’s LPs available once again. The transfers have been very well done by Jonathan Wearne, and the informative booklet includes an endorsement of the appeal from its patron, the Archbishop of York.
It’s fascinating to hear Germani’s different approaches to the various composers. In music by Franck and Frescobaldi, his tempi are broad and majestic; by using the organ’s variety of colours and dynamics, he conveys Frescobaldi’s changes of mood and Franck’s symphonic grandeur. In contrast, his tempi in the pieces by Liszt, Reger and Widor are, at times, extremely rapid; combined with the rich brilliance of the Hill organ, this makes for thrilling listening.
Since 1960 this repertoire has appeared in tidier performances and clearer recordings. However, the drama of Germani’s charismatic playing can still captivate listeners, as it did during the age of the LP.