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Five CDs of little-known organ music by composers from Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland and Iceland is unusual; to have the quality of music, playing and instruments presented here is extraordinary. Hicks presents a treasure-trove of music which should certainly be of great interest to organists, both for liturgical and concert use, and usefully gives edition details with the sleeve notes. One of the earliest works is the large-scale dramatic Sonata of 1855 by J.P.E. Hartmann which opens this saga – Hartmann was one of Carl Nielsen’s composition teachers. Also on this first disc, and a recurring theme in the series, is Lars Egebjer’s variations on an anthem of Varmland, hauntingly beautiful music reflecting the folk music traditions of the area.

The recordings have a huge dynamic range, exemplified by Joonas Kokkonen’s Lux Aeterna on the second disc of vol.1, which starts from the quietest registers and builds to a huge climax before receding back to silence. Central to this series is composer Fredrik Sixten, and his Variations for organ of 2008 which conclude this disc was one of a number of special commissions. Also from Sixten in vol.4 is his Canticle of the Sun, setting a text by Francis of Assisi for two sopranos and organ (Hicks’s daughter Virginia being one of the singers) – a visionary work, the ending of which has to be heard to be believed. Vol.2 includes two works by Niels Gade, a student of Mendelssohn, and a fine Sonata by Viljo Mikkola, a student of Guilmant in Paris – appropriate, as the Malmö organ is a French romantic style of instrument in the mould of Cavaillé-Coll. Vol.3 uses a neoclassical organ of 1964 by Andersen which works well for the modern repertoire on this disc. Another commissioned work here is A Part of My Heritage by Mårten Jansson, which reflects Swedish folk music; also, appropriately, a work from the same year as the organ, a fine set of variations on Jesus Christus unser Heiland by Åke Kullnes, in which a lovely variety of colour is drawn from the instrument. The recorded sound is excellent, as are the sleeve notes by Hicks – these recordings simply must be heard.

DOUGLAS HOLLICK Read the full review on Agora Classica


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