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Jonathan Ryan is one of the rising stars of the American organ scene, with no fewer than six national and international first prizes under his belt. Little wonder, with such a bomb-proof technique: Ryan’s ability to play complex multi-voiced passages with a near-perfect legato is especially impressive. For this recording of Willan (Introduction, Passacaglia and Fugue), Wammes, Philip Moore and Dupré (Symphonie-Passion), Ryan has chosen perhaps the most recorded organ in Europe of the last dozen or so years, the giant Stahlhuth/Jann in Dudelange, captured here at uncomfortably close range. The considerable technical difficulties of Willan’s regal epic are handled with aplomb, although Ryan often wanders too far from the composer’s meticulous tempo markings to allow the whole to feel entirely intuitive. Variation 6 of the Passacaglia, for example, is considerably slower than Variation 7 although no tempo change is indicated, while the fugue begins at least 30 bpm under the crotchet = 104 suggested in the score. Further evidence of Ryan’s considerable technical prowess is evident in Ad Wammes’s transcendental, if typically quirky, Ride in a High Speed Train which, like the Basso Ostinato of the composer’s fellow countryman Dick Koomans, was written for performance by non-human means, in this instance a large fairground organ now housed at Amsterdam’s Orgelpark. The repeated use of the never quite in tune chamades (especially, Cochereau-style, in an otherwise hugely impressive Dupré) quickly leads one to the conclusion that the effectiveness of such stops is in inverse proportion to the regularity of their appearance.

CHRIS BRAGG Read the full review on Agora Classica

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