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Piano & Organ Duets

Dupre, Langlais, Lutoslawski, Saint-Saens, Widor, Cervello

Duo MusArt - Barcelona

Maria Teresa Sierra, piano Raul Prieto Ramnirez, organ

Palau de la Musica, Barcelona. Walcker Organ 1911

Raul Prieto Ramirez

Liszt 'Ad nos...', Franck, Saint-Saens, Reger

Milan Cathedral,Tamburini-Masccioni Organ 268 stops over 15,000 pipes

Piano & Organ Duets

Dupre, Langlais, Lutoslawski, Saint-Saens, Widor, Cervello

Duo MusArt - Barcelona

Maria Teresa Sierra, piano

Raul Prieto Ramnirez, organ

Palau de la Musica, Barcelona

Walcker Organ, 1911

Sound engineer: Pablo Barreiro

Production: Ligeia Pro and Radio Gallega.

Brilliant Classics 9213 EAN 5029365921329

Jean LANGLAIS (1907-1991)
Dyptique. 1. Allegro [5:49] 2. Allegro [4:02]

Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Duo Op.8 No.4 (from Six Duos for piano and harmonium)

3. Capriccio [3:33]
Charles-Marie WIDOR (1844-1937)
Two Duos (from Six Duos for piano and harmonium, op.3)

4. No.1: Humoresque [2:41]
5. Allegro cantabile [6:22]
Witold LUTOSLAWSKI (1913-1994)
6. Variations on a Theme of Paganini (arr. Raúl Prieto) [6:37]
Denis BEDARD (b.1950)
Duet Suite.

7. No.1 Introduction [1:28]; 8. No.2 Fughetta [2:15];

9. No.3 Minuetto [3:53]; 10. No.4 Romance [2:03];

11. No.5 Final [3:26]
Jordi CERVELLÓ (b.1935)
12. Preludiando [6:25]
Marcel DUPRÉ (1886-1971)
13. Variations on Two Themes [14:21]

by Steve Arloff

That the combination of organ and piano is rare is evidenced by the fact that only three of the works on this disc were expressly written for that combination while another was adapted by the composer for it. The rest were transcribed by the organist Raúl Prieto Ramírez. Though there may well be other works written for these two instruments since the Duo perform throughout Spain and internationally, they are certainly unknown to me. However, to answer anyone’s unasked question “is it worth it” this disc emphatically demonstrates that it is. It is in the lap of the composer (or arranger) as to whether it is successful but the disc opener of Langlais’ Dyptique makes an extremely cogent case for such a combination. The feeling of power unleashed is thrilling with the might of the organ dwarfing but not obliterating the piano. The result is awesome in the true sense of the word. The contrast demonstrated by the following two works by Saint-Saëns and Widor is marked. Though they were written for harmonium and piano, the way that Raúl Prieto Ramírez plays the organ shows the ability of that mighty instrument to be gentle, even hushed. The music emerges as delightful and delicate. Lutoslawski’s Variations on a Theme of Paganini was written in 1941 for two pianos and is played here in an arrangement by the organist. There is somewhat of a reversal of roles in it as the piano emerges as the more powerful partner while the organ is more subdued, serving to show the piano’s dominance; that is until the closing bars where the overpowering nature of the organ asserts itself in a “piano-crushing” conclusion. Thrilling stuff!

The name of Canadian composer Denis Bedard was completely new to me. I read in the liner-notes that his Duet Suite was commissioned for an Organ and Piano Duo in Canada so there are other such duos. Bedard’s small suite is charming with some lovely delicate passages from both instruments. Jordi Cervelló is another name I hadn’t come across before and his piece Preludiando was written for the great Spanish pianist Alicia de Larrocha in 2004, later being arranged for string quartet and renamed Á Bach. In 2010 the composer decided to adapt it again, this time for organ and piano, dedicating it to Dúo MusArt. Once again the combination works well as the two instruments really do complement each other. The disc is rounded off by Variations on Two Themes by Dupré, a master of organ composition who was taught by Widor and who in turn taught Langlais and Marie-Claire Alain, among others. This work was written specifically for organ and piano duo and is a truly mighty composition as you would expect from someone of his stature. This work was written in 1937 to mark the death of Glazunov who had previously dedicated his Fantaisie for organ, Op.110 to Dupré. The opening theme – a descending one from the piano, followed immediately by an ascending one from the organ is then treated to twelve variations. As the liner-notes explain these alternate between harmonious dialogue and violent conflict. The climax is “a dazzling and spectacular final fugue” which features “textural variety and an insightful use of the two instruments, both of which are pushed to previously unimaginable limits, make this a touchstone of the piano and organ repertoire”. This disc shows that the most unlikely partnering of instruments can result in some really innovative and exciting music and the excitement is intensified on each hearing. I shall certainly be listening to this disc much more often than I could ever have imagined. I urge you to try it – for organ-lovers especially this is a disc to savour. The Dúo MusArt are a young and dynamic couple whose love for the music is self-evident and whose prowess is demonstrated in every note.

LISZT by Raul Prieto

Liszt "Ad nos...", Franck, Saint-Saens, Reger

Raul Prieto Ramirez, organ

Milan Cathedral, Italy

Tamburini - Masccioni organ, 268 stops over 15,000 pipes

Sound engineer: Pablo Barreiro

Production: Ligeia Pro and Radio Gallega.

Brilliant Classics 94174 EAN 5028421941745

Franz LISZT (1811-1886)
Fantasie and Fugue on the chorale Ad nos, ad salutarem undam from Meyerbeer's Le Prophète (1850) [34:51]

Max REGER (1873-1916)
Fantasia on Straf mich nicht in deinem Zorn, Op. 40 No. 2 (1899) [18:14]

César FRANCK (1822-1890)
Pièce héroïque (1878) [10:57]

Camille SAINT-SAËNS (1835-1921)
Danse macabre (arr. Lemare) (1874) [8:36]


Ramírez, like Gilbert & Sullivan’s suicidal songbird, plunges straight into the billowy wave which, for the first two minutes at least, threatens to swamp everything in its path. Indeed, one can only sympathise with the engineers who have to capture this great wash of sound.

If you and your kit are up to the challenge this is actually an impressive performance, the gaudy colours of the Milan organ entirely appropriate for music of such size and ambition. Goodness, those swirling figures in the first movement are just terrifying, the bright fanfares ringing out most thrillingly. And despite excessive reverberation inner detail isn’t compromised nearly as much as I feared. As for the rolling bass, only one word will suffice: awesome. But then this is an unashamed showpiece, so the more flamboyantly it’s played the better.

Clearly Ramírez is a confident performer, for whom this music holds no terrors. He’s just as adept – and thoughtful – in the quiet waters of the central Adagio which, for all its stillness, steers well clear of the doldrums. By contrast Herrick seems brighter and lighter, the pale northerner pitted against sun-darkened southerner. It’s a fascinating contrast and one that, in terms of sheer drama at least, favours the Spanish player. The Introduction and fugue that brings it all to a tumultuous close is no less compelling, the storm-dashed opening bars as exhilarating as I’ve ever heard them. But it’s the long build-up to that shattering finale that really takes one’s breath away. The music’s towering dynamics are superbly caught.

This is an ‘Ad nos’ to remember with awe rather than affection, but for all that it’s a real achievement for Ramírez. In the unlikely event that he ever needs a calling card, this is it.

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