"Music for Organ and Brass"
MUSSORGSKY-WILLS:  Pictures at an Exhibition.  ELGAR:  NimrodPomp and Circumstance March No. 4, Op. 39 No. 4.  WALTON:  Touch her soft lips and part.  Crown Imperial.  WILLS:  The Fenlands (Symphonic suite for organ and brass).
Arthur Wills, organist; The Cambridge Co-Operative Band/David Read, cond.
HELIOS CDH 55003  (M) (DDD) TT:  75:30
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This lower-mid-price CD is of great interest to those who love the sound of a well-recorded organ.  A re-coupling of recordings made in 1980 (Mussorgsky) and 1982, offers a stimulating program played by Arthur Wills on the huge Ely Cathedral Organ, with assistance from The Cambridge Co-Operative Band directed by David Read.  All of the arrangements were made by Wills, who has long been associated with the Ely Cathedral Organ and was a consultant when the instrument was restored in the early '70s. The Fenlands is an original work by Wills, a symphonic suite for organ and brass premiered in 1981, a work so nationalistic (each of the four movements portrays some aspect of the Fens) Wills considered calling it Fenlandia.  There are four movements to this impressive 26-minute work: The Vikings (which includes the "Fate' motif from Wagner's "Ring'" Wicken Fen, Oliver Cromwell and the finale, March: City of Ely. Wills shows an affinity for the Bernard Herrmann style, particularly in the first movement with its smashing percussion, stark themes and huge masses of sound.

Although Wills' arrangement of Pictures is effective, Wills seems to be rushed in some sections:  his Old Castle and Bydlo are entirely too hasty, and this recording is not as impressive sonically as it could have been.  Tony Faulkner engineered both sessions, but the 1982 sessions produced sonic blockbusters - deep, rich organ pedals, scintillating highs, brilliant, clearly-defined brass - and some cymbals and gongs to delight the audiophile.  There's a mixup on track identification for Pictures but anyone who knows the music will have no trouble finding the different sections.  The prime reason to have this CD is for the other music.  If you don't already have this on its previous full-price issue, here's an opportunity to get it inexpensively.

R.E.B.  (July 2002)