GMCD 7191 – Romance for Violin & Organ

Gough Duo: Rachel Gough – violin, Rupert gough – organ

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American Record Guide January / February 2001

I tend to shy away from organ recordings because of the acoustic problems that so often compromise the recorded quality of the organ. I hesitate to listen to recordings of the organ in chamber music, because sometimes with large organs in large churches there is an annoying rhythmic irregularity or time lag that makes ensemble playing difficult. I also tend to have preconceptions about recordings that have the title “Romance”.
For this recording all my worries were totally unfounded; it is a fantastic recording. The organ and violin are partners of equal sound and weight, the music goes far beyond the restrictions of “Romance”, and the ensemble between violin and organ is superb.
There are a few familiar pieces-the Rachmaninoff Vocalise and Massenet’s ‘Meditation’ from Thaïs–but most of the music is unfamiliar, and some of it is quite adventurous. Kenneth Leighton’s Fantasy on Es ist Genug is particularly interesting. Based en a chorale by JG Ahle that Bach used in his Cantata 60 (and Berg in his violin concerto), it explores the huge range of colors and textures on the Cumming- Willis-Nicholson organ of Christchurch Priory.
Carl Rütti’s Pavane is another piece that breaks all the preconceptions I had of what music for violin and organ could sound like. After a short and emotional introduction, it opens into a rollicking mass of modal broken chords underscored by a pedal point. The introductory material comes back in counterpoint to the broken chords, and the organ and violin trail off in unison.
The playing is spectacular, the music is wonderful, and the recording is superb.

Organists Review February 2001

Here is a delightful disc, with a wide variety of repertoire for violin and organ duo. The title might suggest the more romantic end of the scale in choice of works; whilst favourites such as Massenet’s Méditation from Thaïs and Rachmaninov Vocalise are there, there is also plenty of lesser known music. The most substantial work is the Fantasy on a chorale (Es ist genug) written in 1979 by Kenneth Leighton. Immediately reminiscent of Berg’s Violin Concerto because of the thematic material, this is an immense work, which is given a highly committed performance by Rachel and Rupert Gough. The playing from both is very fine throughout, with a warmth of sound from the violin, and some considerable virtuosity on display in Pavane by the contemporary Swiss composer Carl Rütti; here, as in all the works, the balance between the instruments is very well handled, and the incisiveness of the rhythm in the concluding section is well projected. There is plenty of contrast in the programme; besides the more substantial works there are the miniatures such as the short Romanze by Max Reger, and the Cinq Pièces Op 180 of Jean Langlais of 1954. These latter were originally songs for soprano and organ, which the composer later transcribed for flute or violin and organ, a version he is said to have preferred. All in all this is a disc to be highly recommended, both for the splendid playing and for the recorded sound quality, enhanced by the warm acoustic of Christchurch Priory.
Michael Harris

The Organ vol 79 No.314 November 2000 January 2001

It is surprising how rarely one has the opportunity to hear an organ and violin recital. The combined sounds are not new to us, since the organ is usually the continuo instrument used in Sonatas da Chieasa. The items on the present disc, all beautifully played and recorded are from the 19th and 206th centuries. Olsson’s Romance Op 24, Langlais’s Cinq Pieces Op. 180, the Meditation from Massenet’s Thais, Lovreglio’s Arioso and Saint-Saëns’ Priére are all gentle lyrical compositions. Rachmaninov’s Vocalise lends itself well to this treatment, and William Lloyd Webber’s Benedictus composed to be played bby himself and his bride at their wedding service, is an additional delight. Kenneth Leighton’s Fantasy on a chorale “ES ist genug” which Alban Berg also introduced into his Violin Concerto strikes a more challenging dissonant note, and one that reveals something of the depth of the composer’s mind. Perhaps when their next CD is issued they’ll find space for Kreisler-Pugnani Praeludium and Allegro.