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An organ in a railway station? In 1986 a pair of late 1920s E.M. Skinner organs were purchased from a church in Philadelphia and from a private owner respectively, and restored and installed, over a period of 25 years, in the former ticket hall of Cincinnati’s former Union Terminal railway station, now a museum. The art deco building’s Rotunda is vast: 32 metres from floor to ceiling and some 55 metres across. The pipe chambers are largely installed at floor level in the former booking offices. To hear a well-preserved E.M. Skinner organ in a grand room (here some 6 seconds of audible acoustics) is always a thrill, but in the hands of Frenchman Jean-Baptiste Robin we are dealing with the truly extraordinary. Robin plays his own transcriptions, largely of piano music, with astounding success, finding precisely the heart of this ultra-late-symphonic instrument. Among the many high- lights are (remarkably), Debussy’s La cathédrale engloutie (celestes shimmering) and the Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune (in which Skinner’s trademark French Horn comes into its own), as well as the Barber Adagio for Strings and even the ‘Urlicht’ from Mahler’s Symphony no.2 with soprano Stacey Rishoi. Robin plays with daring, verve and with unflinching attention to colouristic detail. The result is a triumph.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica

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