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Judging by the number of discs landing on my desk, the Italians are clearly keen to revisit and champion their 19th-century organ culture at the moment. This release is another such example, a collection of works by Vincenzo Petrali, the prolific composer/organist and multi-faceted musician whose career encompassed the cities of Cremona, Bergamo and Crema. His 1862 organ school (published in the same years as Lemmens’s) is closely linked to the Serassi organ type and it is fitting that the first of these two CDs should be recorded on a Serassi instrument from the same year. Marco Ruggeri tells us in his notes that the second CD reflects the developing influence on Petrali of the Cecilian movement, but don’t expect the kind of development evident between the early and late organ symphonies of Widor: here, the theatre is never far away. The second disc is recorded on a quite different instrument, an ‘orchestral’ organ by Lingiardi with double windchests for the foundations and reeds (on the controversially ‘high’ wind pressure of 80mm!) à la Cavaillé-Coll. If one can accept the operatic and occa- sionally corny style, the thematic discipline of Petrali’s music is admirable, with the opening Sonata in D displaying the sort of thematic control one might find in a Hollins Concert Overture, for example. Marco Ruggeri plays with drive, his (appropriate?) lack of reverence, plus occasional interjections by bells, cymbals and drums, meaning that the horses on the carousel seem seldom far away. The recording itself is disappointingly claustrophobic.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica

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