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The demise of Washington National Cathedral’s much mutilated 1938 E.M. Skinner is becoming an epic saga; several years after the announcement of two new replacement instruments, the financial crisis and necessary repair work to the church following an earthquake have significantly prolonged its life. In the meantime, more new recordings than ever before have appeared. Despite its sprawling multilingual stoplist (replete with Ranketts, Acutas and even a ‘Prasstant’) and chronic mechanical problems, the brilliant Jeremy Filsell coaxes a very respectable showing from it in an inventive programme of 20th- and 21st-century American organ music, much of it connected with the Cathedral and most of it quite unknown. Some is truly beguiling – Skinner’s Celesta in Leo Sowerby’s Carillon would bring a tear to a glass eye, while the music of Daniel Gawthrop and Nancy Plummer Faxon invites further investigation. The ‘headline’ recording, though, is David Briggs’s Three Preludes & Fugues written in homage to Marcel Dupré. Like his earlier organ symphony, however, Briggs’s virtuosic soundscapes dazzle more than the narrative and development of the music, and the works lack Dupré’s sense of dramatic proportion. This is highly recommendable; in addition to Filsell’s wonderful playing, the organ is very well recorded.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica

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Choir & Organ, 2013 - ©Rhinegold Publishing