“Organ Odyssey” – Mary Preston at the Fisk Lay Family Concert Organ of the Meyerson Sym. Center, Dallas – KARG-ELERT: Choral Improvisation on “Now Thank We All Our God;” VIERNE: “Naïades;” MENDELSSOHN: Organ Sonata No. 1 in F; WIDOR: Sym. No. 9: Andante; IVES: Variations on “America;” MESSIAEN: “Dieu Parmi Nous” from La Nativité du Seigneur; LA MONTAINE: Even Song; WIDOR: Sym. No. 5: Toccata – Reference Recordings HDCD RR-113, 57:14 ***** [Distr. by Allegro] :

This new release is a sort of encore to Reference Recordings’ popular audiophile organ demo disc of over a decade ago – “Pomp & Pipes!” – which was the first recording of the new C.B. Fisk organ in Dallas new Meyerson concert hall. Though basically a tracker-action organ in classical style, it has more ammunition for the demanding task of keeping up with a symphony orchestra – greater air pressure when needed to operate pipes going higher and lower than the typical tracker organ.  This makes the Meyerson organ suitable as a solo instrument for some of the works of the French Organ School presented on this recital.

Aside from the familiar closing Widor Toccata, the program here is not the usual organ recital material but spans a wide variety of organ music of the past couple centuries.  The impressive Mendelssohn organ sonata – one of six he wrote – is the major-length work here.  The Ives and Messiaen works represent the ear-stretching modern style in the program, with the Ives injecting even a bit of humor to boot. Both the lovely Vierne fantasy piece as well as the John La Montaine bit of night music were unknown to me and most enjoyable.

The sound of this organ is skillfully captured, from its highest flute stops down to its 32-foot Tuba Profunda pipes – for a total of 4535 pipes in all. Many ordinary pipe organ recordings sound muddy and run together; not so here. I am again able to properly decode HDCD-encoded discs and I feel this adds to the transparency and clarity, even though such discs are supposed to sound fine without the decoding.  I find it the equal – using two channels – of most of the solo organ recordings I have on SACD.

 – John Sunier