Virgil Fox, pipe organ – The Legacy Series, Command Performances Vol. IV – Organ Arts/Universal

by | Dec 27, 2005 | Classical CD Reviews | 0 comments

Virgil Fox, pipe organ – The Legacy Series Command Performances, Vol. IV – 1963 & 1965. Program = BACH: Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, Prelude and Fugue in D, Fantasy and Fugue in C minor, Toccata in F, Trio Sonata VI in G, “The Wedge” Prelude and Fugue, Rejoice Beloved Christians; FRANCK: Grande Piece Symphonique, Final in B Flat; GIGOUT: Toccata; MOZART: Fantasy in f; MENDELSSOHN: Sonata No. 1 in F Minor; REGER: Fantasie on Chorale “How Brightly Shines the Morning Star” – Organ Arts/Universal B0004135-02, 76:07 & 77:21 (2 discs) ****:

Virgil Fox, sometimes demeaned as “The Liberace of the Pipe Organ,” but a fine performer when he wanted to be, did a great deal of recording and has left behind a sizeable legacy of his oeuvre. Some authorities feel these recordings, made for Enoch Light’s Command Records in 1963 and 1965, mark the pinnacle of his recording career. The program is more serious than his usual fare, and the sound remains fully up to today’s 44.1 audio standards and then some.

Command Records was about the only other label besides Mercury to record to 35mm magnetic film, with its much wider tracks and heaver oxide deposits, which achieved better signal-to-noise and higher resolution than even half-inch tape. The originals were recorded three-channels the same as the Mercuries, and mixed down to two-channel stereo on tape. These were used for the CD masters – the first time these recordings have been available on CD. One of the masters was missing, however, so the Mendelssohn Sonata and Final by Franck had to be used from digital copies made from the Command LPs (I gather also cleaned up digitally because I hear no surface noise on these selections). These two composers’ selections are, by the way, among the highlights of the two discs – powerful performances that make others in my collection sound a bit wussy.  Also they all decode excellently to a surround field using Pro Logic II. And if you have a subwoofer, it will get a workout! As you can see by the timings, each CD is packed with nearly the maximum length program that can be accommodated on a CD today. Even if you have no other pipe organ CD in your collection, you should consider this package.

– John Sunier

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